When Bill O'Brien became Penn State's head football coach this past winter, he said he wanted to uphold some of the program's traditions and start a few new ones.
The tire flip is back, but many other events will be different in Penn State's Lift For Life.
That philosophy extends to the team's biggest charitable fundraiser.
Penn State's chapter of Uplifting Athletes will hold its 10th annual Lift For Life weightlifting challenge from 5-7 p.m. this Friday to raise money to battle kidney cancer. The group's officers, including president Mike Farrell, sat down with O'Brien and new strength coach Craig Fitzgerald earlier this year to make sure they wanted to continue the successful philanthropic event, and the coaches did -- with a few key changes.
In the past, Lift For Life was held in Holuba Hall and would run throughout the afternoon. Approximately 15-20 four-man teams would each go through a circuit of events, with the team that accrued the best times and rep totals walking away as the winner.
This year's competition will be held at the outdoor lacrosse field next to Penn State's multi-sport facility. It will also pit the offense against the defense in seven simultaneous events. Offensive linemen will battle defensive linemen, wide receivers will take on defensive backs and running backs will square off with linebackers.
"We told Coach Fitzgerald it was his show out on the field and it seems like it's going to turn out really well," Farrell said. "His philosophy and the way he trains has a lot of competition built into it, and we've gotten to do some of the things that are a part of (the new competition) this summer."
Some of the old events, such as flipping a giant tractor tire, will remain. Other parts of the competition, like a tug of war that could include "as many guys as we can fit on a rope," said Farrell, will be new. True freshmen will not partake in the challenge but the bulk of the rest of the squad is slated to participate.
"The length of the old competition was a result of the format," Farrell said. "Teams of four would have to go through the event. Now because we'll have the whole team out there at once, it lets us have that nice window of an hour and a half. Before, players would only participate for about an hour each. Now we'll have everybody on the field at once, which is probably more conducive for fans to come out from the start and stay to the finish."
As in past years, the event will be open to the public with donations encouraged. Penn State raised more than $100,000 for kidney cancer research with last year's event and has raised more than $600,000 since 2003. As of Wednesday morning, the team had raised more than $73,000 for this year's event, $12,000 of it by Farrell and more than $27,500 by fellow offensive lineman Eric Shrive.
The Jerry Sandusky trial and the investigation of Penn State have dominated the headlines this summer. The Nittany Lions hope Lift For Life can deliver a different sort of feeling.
"Pretty much everyone associated with this university is looking for ways for it to move forward," Farrell said. "This is a small part of that, but we like to look at it in terms of, 'Let's do our part as football players.'"
For more information on the event or to make a donation, visit upliftingathletes.org