Blue-White Game: How did it all start?
UNIVERSITY PARK – What do Memorial Field, a water bucket and the year 1951 have in common? Based on what the annual celebratory weekend has grown to become, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that these three things are related to the very first Blue-White football game.
Before 1951, college football teams ended their spring training season by playing nearby rivals, with Penn State playing teams like Pitt and Bucknell. When then newly-hired head coach Rip Engle hopped on board, he decided to switch things up. Rather than playing a rival to finish up the spring training season, the Nittany Lions would play each other.
The players would be split into two teams, one wearing their blue jerseys and the other wearing their white. Engle would watch from afar, staying neutral throughout the game. The assistant coaches would be split into two groups, each coaching one of the teams.
On May 5, 1951, the very first Blue-White game was played. Originally called the Bucket Bowl, the winning team would be given a water bucket as a trophy. Proceeds from the game would go towards raising money for the then Pennsylvania State College’s general scholarship fund.
New grass had just been planted on Beaver Field, so instead the game was played on the nearby State College Area High School’s Memorial Field. The general admission ticket price was $1, and students only paid 50 cents. About 500 people were in attendance that day. More were anticipated, but it was a cold and windy day and the game overlapped the running of the Kentucky Derby.
Despite the poor weather, the game continued, and the Blue team beat the White, 7-0. For the next three years, the Blue team remained undefeated. The 1954 game brought a 12-12 tie. Finally, in 1955, the White team made their comeback.
With a final score of 24-12, the White team had their first win in the five years since the newfound tradition’s creation, and they were led by then assistant coach, Joseph V. Paterno.
Nearly 67 years later, the Blue-White weekend tradition holds strong. State College grows from its small town population to become the third largest city in the state. Students, families and alumni alike come together from all over the country to visit with old friends and enjoy the April weather and some good old fashion football.