When you think about sports at Penn State, the first one that comes to mind is probably football. Beaver Stadium garners the attention of many nationwide and State College was recently ranked the number one college football town in America by ESPN, so it’s no wonder football tends to be everyone’s first thought. But football isn’t the only sport available at Penn State, and it certainly isn’t the only sport that students should watch.
Penn State is an NCAA Division 1 (D-I) school; Division 1 is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Generally, D-1 schools are some of the biggest schools in the country and have larger budgets to create and fund elaborate/expensive facilities and more money for athletic scholarships.
To become a Division 1 member, institutions must sponsor at least seven sports for women and seven sports for men, or six for men and eight for women, with two team sports for each gender — this is to follow Title IX guidelines. Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in any educational institution that receives federal funds. Each sports season — fall, winter and spring — must also represent both genders. Additionally, Division I schools must meet specific financial requirements: there is a minimum financial aid award that athletic programs must hit, as well as a maximum amount of financial aid awards for each sport.
Penn State currently has 29 NCAA Division 1 teams, with 15 men’s sports and 14 women’s sports. This includes men’s and women’s teams for basketball, ice hockey, gymnastics and volleyball to name a few. There are also sports like wrestling and baseball — which are played only by men — and field hockey and softball — which are played only by women.
At Penn State, students only have to pay to see football, men’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey. For these three sports, students have the opportunity to buy season tickets before the season starts, or they can buy single-game tickets as the season is in session. All other sports on campus are free for students to attend! There are certain sports where students will be given tickets when they go, such as women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s and women’s gymnastics. Every other sport on campus is considered non-ticketed, so students are free to attend and also don’t need to get a ticket at the door.
If you’re interested in watching something other than football, or if you’re wondering what sports will be available after football season is over, you’re in luck! Penn State splits its athletics into three seasons, so there’s likely to be at least one sporting event going on throughout much of the year. During the fall semester, the big event is obviously football, but students can also attend women’s volleyball matches, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s field hockey. In the spring semester, students can watch men’s and women’s lacrosse, outdoor track and field and fencing. There are also a few sports that compete in both fall and spring, including men’s and women’s ice hockey, basketball and swim and dive.
Currently, women’s volleyball is ranked 13 in the D-1 women’s volleyball rankings, with a 14-6 record. Field hockey is ranked fifth in the NCAA field hockey rankings with a 12-4 record. The men’s basketball team has appeared in nine different NCAA tournaments, almost making it to the most prestigious college basketball tournament — NCAA March Madness — in the spring of 2020! Penn State’s wrestling team is also one of the best in the country; in March of 2021, the team won four individual titles at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, bringing their overall number of NCAA titles to 48.
Although football might be the sport that draws in the crowds and brings campus the most media attention, Penn State has a lot of other sports to offer, all of which have fantastic records, championships and overall wins. If you’re looking for something new to watch, or if you’re wondering what you’ll spend your Saturdays doing once football season is over, check out the rest of the athletics available and go check out a game or match. You might even find one you enjoy watching more than football.