Nittanyville president: ‘It’s been an amazing experience’
In the days leading up to Penn State’s primetime clash with Ohio State a few weeks ago, James Franklin continually said that if the Nittany Lions were going to win, they’d do it together with the fans, the students, and the community.
Nittanyville President Sara Butcher and her fellow campers take that message to heart.
Butcher, a senior majoring in public relations, has this vivid memory of when she was only 7 years old. She was at a football game with her dad, and as she pointed over to the student section at Beaver Stadium, she remarked how she couldn’t wait to be over there.
Well, now she certainly is.
This week, Butcher and Nittanyville — the football student section — are preparing for the season’s second nighttime kickoff at Beaver Stadium, and also the second White Out. After Penn State thumped Purdue on Saturday, James Franklin took to Twitter and rhetorically asked why not have two White Outs in one season.
Butcher certainly can’t think of any.
Penn State was always on her radar, because as she said, her entire family attended Penn State, and she also had a great uncle who worked in Old Main. “We were always up here,” said Butcher, who grew up outside of Pittsburgh, in Harrison City.
During her freshman year, she attended an informational meeting about Nittanyville and left totally intrigued. That makes sense, considering she’s camped out for every game during the last four seasons, with one exception. Butcher held two previous positions within the organization her sophomore and junior years, and also has the added perspective of being an on-campus tour guide for Lion Scouts.
The first female president of Nittanyville is particularly busy this time of year, though with the way she talks, she wouldn’t want it any other way. Standing outside of Beaver Stadium as she camped out for the Ohio State game a few weeks ago, Butcher took some time and discussed her unforgettable time as a student camper and president of Nittanyville.
HappyValley: When you’re camping out for a night game, is there a different type of energy during the week?
Sara Butcher: For sure, every week is amazing being up here; I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, this is something special. Everybody looks forward to this each year. We have a ton of new campers up here this week (Ohio State), so seeing new faces along with the familiar ones is really exciting.
HV: Looking ahead to Iowa, is there anything that stands out about that game?
SB: People are excited to have two night games this year, that’s the big thing. I was definitely excited, because I feel like night games bring a lot more energy, in primetime. Everybody has a lot more time to get themselves together and get ready for the game. I usually feel like the later the game, the bigger our campouts are, so I’m hoping that one (Iowa) rivals this one.
HV: During last weekend, James Franklin proposed the idea of having a second White Out this season for Saturday’s matchup against Iowa. What was your reaction to that, and how will that news impact your plans for the week?
SB: I'm definitely intrigued by the thought of a second White Out. If that is the case, it changes the mentality of the entire week leading up to the game for everyone. But right now, we are just celebrating the team's success and are gearing up for another big week. Like Coach Franklin said, we need every single one of our fans to show up and bring the energy to continue to make Beaver Stadium the best home-field advantage in college football! It's a team effort. As always, we will work hand-in-hand with football and the Penn State Athletics marketing team to compliment and execute any other exciting ideas that may come up between now and Saturday night.
HV: What are a few must-have items when you’re camping out during the week?
SB: I would probably say a phone charger, because I’m constantly on my phone. I think I spend more time on my phone than interacting with humans — which is not good — I don’t recommend that. That, and honestly, a tarp. A tarp saves lives. Last night, we weren’t expecting it to rain, but it poured and everything was soaked. That definitely was a lifesaver.
HV: What it’s been like to meet coaches and players from the football team, and see how much they appreciate what you and the campers do for them?
SB: Absolutely amazing. The marketing team for athletics, Brad Keen, he’s amazing; all the things they do for us, him and P.J. (Mullen). We work really close with them. They obviously understand our passion for this, and they definitely push us further to succeed and help us every step along the way. It’s unbelievable. The people I’ve met along the way through this whole process from all different branches of athletics, it’s really cool.
HV: Take us through the experience of playing the cowbell during games. How did that start for you, and how did you learn the routine?
SB: I’ve been around music my whole life (she played clarinet in middle school and taught herself the guitar), so keeping a beat isn’t usually an issue. We always do it up here for tent checks and announcements. Anytime there’s a break in play — usually for a TV timeout — we try to do it every quarter, though it doesn’t always work out. But whenever there’s enough time to get everyone engaged, we do it.
HV: Do you talk at all with Darian Somers (immediate past Nittanyville president), and if so, what advice has he shared?
SB: He’s definitely helped me. I had a lot of questions going into this week (for Ohio State), and he gave me a few pointers on whom to contact for certain things. I definitely had big shoes to fill this year, coming off everything he’s done, and he’s definitely been a big help for me.
HV: What do you know now about being the Nittanyville president that you didn’t at the beginning of the season?
SB: Timing is key. I panic at the smallest things ever — I’m a perfectionist at most times. There’ll be little things. This week, for example, just getting footballs for the trashcan tournament, we need more than usual. You think of things; lights on for the dunk contest, etc. But it’s been an amazing experience — I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The people I’ve met and the executive board, they’re all wonderful people.