UNIVERSITY PARK - Beaver Stadium turns 50 this year, and three members of the Penn State coaching staff were on the field the day it opened in 1960 with the Nittany Lions beating Boston University, 20-0.
Galen Hall was the Lions' starting quarterback that day, a sophomore having taken over for All-American Richie Lucas.
State's current offensive coordinator remembers looking out beyond the south end zone, which had about six rows of bleachers, and sensing how it was a far cry from the incredible atmosphere generated a year earlier when 34,000 packed and encircled Beaver Field - 4,000 over capacity - in a classic showdown against Syracuse.
"People were all over the place," Hall said of the 20-18 loss to the Orange. "It was a very close setting - almost like people were on top on you. It was great. Everything was closed in at the old place, with all the trees and the water towers and the surroundings. Out here, you were in an open area. You could look out and see Mount Nittany."
Joe Paterno likes to tell the story of how he thought the decision to move the stadium to the east end of campus would be the program's downfall. He lobbied Rip Engle to convince then university president Eric Walker not to go through with it.
"I said, 'You can't let them do that, Rip, it will ruin Penn State football,''' JoePa said earlier this week. "We were close to the Nittany Lion Inn, and people were used to coming up there. We had a nice parking area across the street, where the golf course was, and the whole bit."
Beaver Stadium by the numbers
1960.....46,284.....Inaugural game drew 22,000
1969.....48,284.....First of five expansions in 11 years
1972.....57,538.....Syracuse lured season-high crowd of 60,000
1976.....60,203.....Bleachers become bowl in south end zone
1978.....76,639.....Every home game listed over capacity
1980.....83,770.....Stadium raised, track eliminated
1991.....93,967.....North end zone overhang added
2001.....107,282.....Skyboxes, club seats, south end zone completed
Top crowds in Beaver Stadium history
1. 110,753 vs. Nebraska, 2002 (40-7)
2. 110,134 vs. Ohio State, 2007 (17-17)
3. 110,078 vs. Notre Dame, 2007 (31-10)
4. 110,033 vs. Ohio State, 2009 (7-24)
5. 110,017 vs. Michigan, 2009 (46-17)
Largest stadiums in the country
4. Ohio .....102,329
(Note: Neyland Stadium is home to the University of Tennessee; Bryant-Denny Stadium is home to the University of Alabama).
It was an argument Paterno and the football staff lost - probably one of the last ones - and a graduate building was built on the ground where Beaver Field stood.
Though it had a capacity of 46,284, the new stadium opened to a crowd of 22,000 against BU. Even the players found it awkward.
"I remember thinking it was a long way out there," Hall said. "It was sitting by itself. We bused out for scrimmages and the games, but we still practiced around Rec Hall and used the old locker rooms."
Gradually, though, Beaver Stadium became embraced and after a traffic jam before an Illinois game in 1960, tailgating began. The stadium has since undergone seven expansions, capped by the 2001 addition of skyboxes and the completion of the south end zone, and has more than doubled in size to the second-largest venue in the country.
Offensive line coach Dick Anderson was a freshman in 1960. He recalls being "amazed they could pick the stadium up and cut it into pieces and move it across campus," and he marvels at today's Penn State experience.
"The old Beaver Field was like a central hub, but there was no parking and no room for expansion," he said. "We couldn't exist like that today in the Big Ten."
"What's happened here - to be the first- or second-largest stadium in the nation and the way our fans have supported - has been fantastic," Hall said. "I could not have imagined it. We were all so young that we didn't have the vision to see what was going to happen."
And that includes JoePa, the wondrous visionary himself.
"Shows you how smart I am," he said. "It was a great move. It's amazing how many people come up here ... if we have a football team we don't know how good or bad it is yet, and yet we'll have a great crowd [today]."
Here's to the next 50.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.