STATE COLLEGE - When the Penn State football team took the field for their first practice in pads this year on Saturday, the sidelines were surrounded by over 500 coaches from around Pennsylvania and its neighboring states.
It was the second day of the annual Penn State Football Coaches Clinic, and District 4 was well represented at the event. Coaching staffs from South Williamsport, Wellsboro, Warrior Run, Hughesville, Mifflinburg, Athens, Jersey Shore, Loyalsock, Montoursville, North Penn, Selinsgrove, Shamokin, Towanda and Shikellamy were all in attendance hoping to improve upon their football knowledge and refine their coaching skills.
"I think the clinic is great because it gets you thinking about football early in the year, and allows us to talk to high school coaches from all over," said Hughesville head coach Andy Brown. "We also get to see how the great coaches at Penn State run their program and take a few good ideas away from them," he added.
The district was also represented by players, as Brandon Smith of Lewisburg and Nazar Mironenko of Mifflinburg could be spotted walking around the facilities getting a glimpse of what life will be like when they begin practice with the team as preferred walk-ons this fall.
In his second year running the clinic Penn State's head coach Bill O'Brien nearly doubled the attendance from last year by lowering the ticket price by $20 per person, a promise that he made to coaches last year. In doing so O'Brien helped financially strapped high school programs by allowing them to send more coaches, but he also helped himself.
As NCAA sanctions weigh down on the PSU football program in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, O'Brien has had the difficult task of recruiting quality players without being able to offer many scholarships. As a result the PSU Coaches Clinic has become a crucial recruiting tool for the team, as it allows O'Brien and his staff the ability to talk with coaches from all over the state without ever leaving Happy Valley.
In building these contacts, coaches are able to recommend players to O'Brien that they believe would make good walk-ons, in turn O'Brien is able to lobby on behalf of Penn State to schools that hold top recruits.
"We think it's a good clinic, and were going to keep doing it every year that this staff is here," O'Brien said in the clinic's final speech." It's great to have you guys here and to be able to build these relationships."