Hey Bill, which way to Ireland? Photo: USA Today Sports
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien has been discussing the idea of playing a game in Ireland for months. As he makes the rounds via bus this week on a coaches bus tour to meet and greet alumni, O'Brien said with a smirk to reports and fans that Penn State was getting much closer to having a game in Ireland officially on the schedule, but nobody knew just how serious to take his remarks or exactly how "soon" was considered soon. We also had no idea who the opponent could be.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, it could be in 2014.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Friday morning that Central Florida and Penn State were in talks to open the 2014 season in Ireland. The game would require some managing of schedules at both schools in order to handle some conflicts with existing season opening plans in 2014, but it appears as though there is some actual momentum for the idea of the Nittany Lions and Golden Knights to open the season across the pond.
“We have talked to them about being a potential opponent, but we are far from an agreement,” said David Hansen, UCF senior associate athletics director for internal operations in the Orlando Sentinel report. “Logistically, it’s not easy.”
Penn State and Central Florida each have season opening games already on the schedule against in-state opponents. Penn State is scheduled to open at home against Temple and Central Florida is set to open at home against Florida International. Ideally these games could be swapped with any date that could have been set aside for when Penn State and Central Florida would meet in 2014 (or 2015). One simple solution would be to figure out if Temple and Florida International could play each other instead. Without knowing the particulars of the contracts, I would imagine there are ways to buy out of the games or arrange for a rescheduled game for another week or season if needed And given the kind of resources available to Penn State, even in a sanctioned period, it might be feasible to believe money could solve some problems here.
But before any of that can be determined, Penn State and Central Florida need to find a location suitable for the occasion. Two options being reported by the Orlando Sentinel are Aviva Stadium and Croke Park in Dublin. Aviva Stadium played host to Notre Dame and Navy to open the 2012 season and the feedback appears to be amazing. But that was Notre Dame and Navy. Would Penn State and Central Florida be able to pull in a big enough crowd to fill the venue of 49,000 (for American football) or at least bring in a decent crowd?
There are still some details to iron out, but it certainly feels as though Penn State has found an Irish dancing partner to work with and it may just be a matter of time before fans start making sure they have updated passports.