Part of the reason could also be a weak schedule, which hasn’t had many strong nonconference opponents in the past several years and does not feature many coming up.
In the past, Penn State has played nonconference games against other perennial football powerhouses such as Alabama, Notre Dame and Nebraska — prior to the school’s inclusion in the Big Ten conference — and Oregon State.
In the past two years, Penn State has played nonconference games against lower-profile teams such as Eastern Michigan, Central Florida and Temple. Massachusetts comes to Beaver Stadium next year.
The next high-profile nonconference team on the schedule is Pitt in 2017, although there is still an opening on the 2015 schedule.
Krushinski, the Shamokin native, admitted that the schedule probably has been a factor in the attendance at the first two games, but said he expects things to pick up once Big Ten opponents visit University Park.
“When you hit the Ohio State and Michigan (games), it’ll be packed,” he said. “That’s what happened last year.”
Things may turn around as the Nittany Lions prepare for their long-term schedule, looking past the heavy NCAA sanctions limiting scholarships and restricting Penn State from bowl games for four years. On Thursday, Penn State announced that it and West Virginia agreed to a two-game series, scheduled for 2023 and 2024.
For the city of State College, home football games are a huge money-maker, bringing visitors into hotels and shops, said Andrea Harman, communications coordinator for the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County.
“They put people in the local hotels, local restaurants. It’s an enormous flow of people,” she said. “And they take advantage of all the retail shops that we have.”
The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County formally studied the economic impact of the games, but Harman said the matchups have a definite positive impact and that attendance has been noticeably declining.
“It’s not as bad as everyone’s been saying, but there has been a change,” she said.
Part of that impact may be softened because many fans remain loyal to Penn State football and plan to attend games, even if the price tag goes up and the schedule isn’t at its peak.
“It’s kind of magical,” Krushinski said. “The student section was packed ... and everybody that was around our tailgate were same people that have been there for years.”
“The football hasn’t changed, the spirit hasn’t changed as far as rooting them on,” he said. “(The sanctions were) no fault of any of those players. We need to support them.”