On the night before the first day of classes, Penn State men’s basketball coach Pat Chambers stood in the center of Rec Hall, facing about 5,000 Penn State freshmen.
“I’m going to teach you a cheer,” Chambers told the crowd.
“When I say ‘O,’ you say, ‘B,’” Chambers yelled.
The chant was a calling for new football coach Bill O’Brien. It was similar to a chant freshmen learned the past few years – “When I say ‘JoePa’, you say ‘Terno.’”
Except this year, when the students chanted, the football coach answered.
O’Brien highlighted the “Be a Part From the Start” pep rally – an annual event that encourages Penn State students to get involved with their community – by simply showing up.
The coach, dressed in navy sweat pants and a navy long sleeved shirt, delivered the keynote address after Chambers’ enthusiastic introduction.
O’Brien told the class of 2016 that they would be joined at the hip because they both chose to commit to Penn State “during what people said was tough times.”
“I don’t see tough times, I just see this,” O’Brien said as he pointed to the crowd, which stood throughout his entire speech, waved blue and white pom poms and cheered loudly.
“I’m not surprised he showed up, but I am impressed,” said freshman Diego Zuniga, a Connecticut native. “It just shows his support of the community and his commitment. He didn’t have to come, but he did.”
While the NCAA sanctions were never mentioned directly, the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal was certainly felt throughout the 1-hour event.
Most students wore Penn State apparel, including a handful of students wearing a shirt that read “We Are Pissed Off.”
One male student wore a shirt that read, in large black font, “I Still Bleed Blue and White.”
Penn State women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington also spoke at the event. She said on Saturday, in the Nittany Lions’ opener against Ohio, “we are going to show the world that Penn State football is going to rock.”
Washington then encouraged students to support the student athletes, pointing to a record crowd of more than 5,000 fans who attended a women’s soccer game against No. 1 Stanford last week.
“Can you imagine how many people are going to watch Bill O’Brien carry on the tradition of Penn State football?” she asked.