On-site preparations continue for Aug. 30 Croke Park Classic in Ireland

DUBLIN, Ireland -- Delegations from Penn State and the University of Central Florida (UCF) visited Dublin this past weekend to put detailed operations plans in place with the Croke Park team for the Croke Park Classic on Aug. 30.

A contingent from both universities, including Penn State Director of Athletics Dave Joyner, Penn State Associate Athletic Director Rick Kaluza, UCF head coach George O’Leary and their operations staffs joined the team at Croke Park to run through logistics plans ahead of the 2014 season opener for both teams.

“There is great energy for the game and everyone with the GAA, Croke Park and in Dublin again have been very welcoming,” said Joyner. “The game will be a first-class event and a great kick off to the season. The events, wonderful hospitality and partnership with the people of Ireland are what will set the week apart. The cultural exchange opportunities for the University, students, faculty, staff and Penn State fans will be significant and memorable.”

Penn State will be playing its first international game since the program’s 1887 inception when it meets UCF at Croke Park, the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The contest will be the eighth American college football game in Ireland and the first at Croke Park since 1996.

The opening game on the first Saturday of the 2014 college football season will be the first international contest for both schools. The game will kick at 1:30 p.m. in Dublin, 8:30 a.m. ET, and will air on ESPN2, the Penn State Sports Network and www.GoPSUsports.com.

The site visit included a pitch transformation at GAA headquarters as American football posts were erected and pitch markings laid down at Croke Park. The American football pitch size for the college game is half the size of the Croke Park pitch at 110 meters by 45 meters compared to 144 meters by 86 meters. The visit was the first time the pitch plans had been laid out, and game operations and production were also finalized. 

In addition, the contingents from both schools visited the team hotels and practice facilities and locations for city-wide events including the joint pep rally and tailgate locations at Dublin Castle and Temple Bar.

“Our team is excited to head to Ireland to play UCF and represent Penn State in a first class manner,” said Penn State coach James Franklin, who was the keynote speaker at Saturday night’s Blair County Sports Hall Fame dinner. “It's going to be cool for our kids -- a cultural experience, since most of them have never been outside of the country. I want them to experience the art, music and culture, and I hope our guys get a win -- along with some good Irish food.

"Irish fans of American Football and all of the Penn State fans traveling to Dublin will be in for an exciting game and a memorable experience," Franklin added. "We’re looking forward to getting the season under way in front of a huge Penn State crowd at Croke Park.”

Speaking at the visit, O’Leary said he is eagerly anticipating the Croke Park Classic clash. “It’s been great to put the last few operations plans together over the past few days. Now we can start to look ahead to the big game with excitement. We are really looking forward to putting on a show in Dublin.”

GAA Director General Páraic Duffy said, “It was great to welcome the colleges to Croke Park again this weekend. Next time it will be for the big game in August, which promises to be a superb event for the city.”

There have been only seven prior American football games in Ireland; four involving Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs. The last game hosted in Croke Park was in 1996 when Notre Dame played Navy. Croke Park will have a capacity of 69,000 for the Penn State-UCF clash.

Penn State will be the first Big Ten Conference team to play internationally since Michigan State and Wisconsin met in Tokyo in 1993.

Tickets are on sale for the Croke Park Classic through http://ticketmaster.ie and http://tickets.ie. For further information, visit www.crokeparkclassic.ie.

Franklin, nine other head coaches and nine assistant football coaches, will be participating in the 17-stop Penn State Coaches Caravan, starting May 1 at the Pegula Ice Arena on the University Park campus and ending May 22 at Penn State Erie. Franklin is scheduled to appear at all 17 events. For all the Coaches Caravan event dates and locations and coaches attending, visit http://alumni.psu.edu/events/coachescaravan.

More than 3,000 new season tickets have been sold for the 2014 campaign. There again was no increase in season tickets prices for Penn State football for the upcoming season. New season tickets are available by calling 800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Penn State returns 41 letterwinners and 15 starters (seven offense, seven defense, one specialist) and will play a trio of 2013 Top 10 teams this fall. The Nittany Lions will host Rose Bowl Champion Michigan State (Nov. 29), Ohio State (8 p.m. Oct. 25), Northwestern (Sept. 27-Homecoming) and Maryland (Nov. 1) during its 2014 Big Ten home schedule. Penn State will host Akron (Sept. 6), UMass (Sept. 20) and Temple (Nov. 15) during its non-conference schedule.

Penn State Football is on Twitter (@PennStateFball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/PSUFball).

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Last Updated May 15, 2014