Of all the great Big Ten fan traditions, Penn State's White House might be my personal favorite.
Although fairly new, Penn State's coordination of fan attire for the big-ticket matchup at Beaver Stadium creates visual images like this and this, which are impossible to forget. The White House asks all Penn State fans to wear white for a game, differentiating it from a whiteout (just students). Last September's White House game against Iowa in a steady downpour served as my favorite game setting of the 2009 Big Ten season.
So you can understand why I was disappointed to see this.
After dropping the 2009 White House game to Iowa, Penn State will have to wait for 2011 to seek redemption before 110,000 white-clad fans, Paternoville President Alex Cohen said. Cohen, citing a high-ranking official within the athletic department, confirmed in a text message that the next White House game will be Sept. 10, 2011, against Alabama.
There had been some confusion about the White House situation after tickets for this season's matchup against Temple suggested the game would serve as a White House. The Temple game tickets included the words "Whitehouse, All-University, and Varsity 'S' Day" and encouraged all fans to wear white. But it was a misprint.
Good thing, too.
The opponent and the significance of a game play major roles in when the White House should be scheduled. These are not just games, but events, and they need to be special.
A late September matchup against Temple doesn't move the needle. To be honest, none of Penn State's home matchups this fall get me too jazzed, which is why postponing the White House until 2011 is the right call.
"The game has to have significance and the date has to work," [associate athletic director Greg] Myford said. "There's a number of factors that go into it."
Penn State's home slate consists of games against Youngstown State (Sept. 4), Kent State (Sept. 18), Temple (Sept. 25), Illinois (Oct. 9), Michigan (Oct. 30), Northwestern (Nov. 6) and Michigan State (Nov. 27). The Michigan game jumps out as a potential candidate for the White House, especially since an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 already has been announced.
But Michigan's recent slide has decreased the buzz around such a matchup, as Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News:
The Penn State Athletic Department is making the right move by refusing to designate any of the 2010 home games as a "White House" game. A quick glance at the schedule and it becomes clear there isn't a team worthy of earning the distinction of the "White House" opponent. Before Rich Rodriguez took over the Michigan program, it would have been an easy choice to promote a "White House" for the night game against the Wolverines on Oct. 30. But with the Wolverines struggling mightily (8-16 since 2008), Penn State would really be stretching the boundaries of what should be considered a "White House" game.
That's a knock against Michigan, but it's hard to argue right now. While I wouldn't mind seeing the White House policy re-examined in early October -- say, if both Penn State and Michigan are ranked and undefeated -- I understand the logistical issues of making a decision so close to kickoff.
The Alabama game at Beaver Stadium seems a long way away, but I have a feeling the White House will be worth the wait.