There has long been desire for Penn State men's basketball program to return to its roots and the Rec Hall gymnasium it called home for 67 seasons.
January 7, 1996 marked the final hoops game at the venerable building, featuring a 79-50 win by the Lions before they moved into Bryce Jordan Center for their next contest on Jan. 11.
Since, fans, ex-players, and alumni alike have called for at-least a one night return to experience the history that State basketball made in its old home. And according to head men's coach Patrick Chambers, they have been listening.
Along with athletic director Dave Joyner, Chambers announced Wednesday afternoon that State would host Princeton at Rec Hall December 14, dubbing the 2013 contest the "Return To Rec." Former head coach Bruce Parkhill, who led State to the A-10 Tournament Championship at Rec Hall in 1991, was also on hand for the announcement.
"This is a historical day for Penn State's mens basketball program. To have Coach Parkhill here; his success in Rec Hall was amazing. I get goose bumps, and it is an amazing feeling knowing we going to be back play a game at Rec Hall," Chambers said during the news conference.
"Every time we came up against something, there were always solutions, and [Joyner] always said 'how can we make this happen?' Because of Dr. Joyner and his administration, the possibility that we talked about for 17.5 seasons is now a reality."
Chambers added that the two programs are already in talks regarding retro or older style uniforms, joking that while his players might not care to wear the short-shorts common to the era, former guard and Parkhill disciple Brian Allen, who was in attendance, would likely go for the outfit.
Speaking of Parkhill, the former head coach from 1984-1995 spoke glowingly of his time at Rec Hall, claiming that the building was "right up there with any venue in the country when all the students came and stood the whole game."
He admitted that the building harmed his recruiting efforts, but said it was important to him that he was a part of the announcement, since he was "a part of the pre-Big Ten and Big Ten era at Penn State, and I think sometimes the [pre-Big Ten] student-athletes sometimes get lost in the shuffle."
He also noted that he spoke to Chambers' bunch - one in the midst of preparing for a foreign tour in August - and explained to them that, just like when he arrived, the fans did not come out fully until the winning began.
But once it did, they flocked to Rec Hall, camping out and lining up down Pollock Road for a clash with Temple long before camping out on the Beaver Stadium lots for an assured student ticket at the Bryce Jordan Center.
And that brings us to ticket prices for the December clash, which comes the Saturday after classes end and the one before final exams begin to conclude Penn State's fall semester. According to a release from the program, 2,100 of the expected 6,300 capacity will be reserved for students at $10 a ticket, while the general public will be charged $20.
The release adds that further information will be distributed to season ticket holders regarding entry to the game.
"We listen, we heard what our fans are saying, what our students and ex-players are saying, and they wanted to go back in time to be a part of that tradition, and that history," Chambers said. "There's nothing like being in that arena, and I'm just thinking about roaming the sidelines.
"I think we did a good job of listening to what the alumni base had to say."
Chambers, who said his team practiced at Rec Hall last fall to teach his players the history of the program they play for, added that he attended the 1992-1993 season showdown with Indiana at Rec Hall, describing himself as "still mad" about the Lions 88-84 double overtime loss to the Hoosiers, thanks in part to referee Sam Lickliter, who gave Indiana new life in the final seconds of regulation after whistling State guard Greg Bartram for a foul.
Bu that is here nor there. Instead, the focus is on remembering, cherishing, and honoring the past, while giving many what they clamored for, and giving his team and university something unique to look forward to, as well.
Princeton was selected because Chambers' believes they will provide a quality contest with his program, one of the reasons he noted before a plea to fans and alumni to come to University Park for the tilt.
Joyner wouldn't promise it would be an every year event, but wouldn't rule out it being a one-and-done contest, either. He concluded by noting the biggest hold-up for scheduling the game was logistical and revolved mostly around physical space in the building, including basket location. With those issues resolved, however, it's full speed ahead to fully re-living the past.
"There is excitement about our basketball program, and we are trying to be innovate in general," Joyner said. "Patrick is a student of the game, and when he was watching the Indiana game, he got us really revved up about doing this.
"It was the right time to inject some energy into the program, and get the fans, program, players, and coaching staff excited."