On the Ground in Tampa

Some quick-hitting notes from our first full day on location as Penn State prepares for its Outback Bowl matchup with Florida.

TAMPA -- Penn State's preparation to face Florida in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day slowed a bit the last two days, as the team took time to make a big move, celebrate Christmas and rest up.

Fortunately, we were able to sneak out of the Northeast just ahead of the travel-delaying bad weather and have officially set up shop at the Outback Bowl media hotel, the Wyndham Westshore, to gear up for the task at hand, too.

Media registration begins Sunday afternoon.

In the meantime, here are a few notes to get our on-location coverage rolling.


Penn State made the move from Clearwater to Tampa Friday. And that was not as simple as it might sound.

It started with switching hotels -- from the Hilton on Clearwater Beach to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Tampa. That didn't mean simply giving the players and coaches new room keys and driving them to the new location.

All of the equipment from the teams' various meeting rooms had to be moved, as well, and that included a significant amount of video gear. New meeting rooms and dining areas had to be set up at the new hotel.

Speaking of equipment, on the practice side of things, all of the gear and uniforms had to be packed up and moved (via the Hoy Transfer Penn State-branded tractor trailer) from the Phillies Carpenter Complex in Clearwater to Tampa Jesuit High School.

Tampa Jesuit is about a 15-minute drive from the team hotel (in normal traffic).

During Penn State's last appearance here -- following the 2006 season -- the team also stayed at the Hyatt but practiced at the University of Tampa, which was five minutes away. Florida is at the University of Tampa this year.

Other than locations, the facilities appear to be similar. Jesuit is a Class 2A team that went 12-0 before losing in the state regional finals this year.


The Nittany Lions did not practice Christmas Day or Sunday, as the staff gave them a couple of days off to get their legs back following some extremely difficult practices in Clearwater. That included two days of double-sessions, where, “the players had their (rear ends) kicked,” according to one source.

With New Year's Day falling on a Saturday, practice from here on out will be handled just like a regular game week -- normal practice sessions Monday through Thursday and a walk-through (and team photo) at Raymond James Stadium Friday.

One difference from regular-season game weeks: practice times are not consistent.

Here is when PSU is scheduled to practice:

Monday: 11:45 a.m. (closed).

Tuesday: 12:45 p.m. (limited media access).

Wednesday: 2:30 p.m. (closed).

Thursday: 11:30 a.m. (limited media access).

It will be interesting to see how Tuesday plays out. PSU is slated to practice at 12:45 p.m., but head coach Joe Paterno is scheduled to be at a joint press conference with Florida counterpart Urban Meyer from noon until 1 p.m.


While the Clearwater Beach Hilton is in a bustling tourist area, the Tampa Hyatt is plopped in the middle of a business district, surrounded primarily by banks.

The area is practically desolate during the holiday week.

That may not be great for the players, but it is just as well as far as the staff is concerned. The Lions had plenty of time to have fun in Clearwater. The location of the new hotel makes it that much easier to focus in on the Gators.

There are also several team events planned for the week, including a welcome dinner at A La Carte Event Pavilion Sunday night, a visit to Children's Hospital Monday, an outing at Busch Gardens Tuesday (the players get free admission and front-of-the-line passes), a night at GameTime (an arcade in Ybor City where the players get free play for a certain amount of time) Wednesday and a beach party back in Clearwater Thursday.


As the Northeast is being slammed by snowstorms, things are unseasonably cool in these parts, too. For the next three days, temperatures are expected to top out in the low to mid 50s and bottom out in the low 30s or even high 20s. There is a freezing rain warning in effect through Monday morning, which should make things interesting.

But the weather is supposed to warm up later in the week, reaching the upper 70s by Saturday. There is no rain in the forecast for later in the week.

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