Penn State athletes had taken 102 tests for the coronavirus as of last week with no positive results, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said Wednesday.
Barbour wore a Penn State-logoed mask for the first minute of a nearly hour-long video news conference, she said, “to emphasize how important this really is.’’ She then went on to discuss a number of issues.
Testing update: Members of Penn State’s football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams are now on campus, taking part in voluntary workouts.
All the athletes were tested upon their arrival on campus, and will be tested again if they become symptomatic, at least through the summer. The 102 tests taken above do not count 60-70 given to the soccer and volleyball teams Monday and Tuesday, for which results were not yet available.
Barbour said coaches and other staff members who have returned to work have also been tested. Those results are part of general university testing data that will be announced by the university and/or Centre County government, not the athletic department.
Money issues: Pay cuts for head coaches, and perhaps other staffers, are coming.
“I think at this point is probably safe to say that that that will be the case, although the details obviously still need to be worked out,’’ Barbour said.
“I've had these conversations both collectively and, in many cases, individually with coaches and our leadership team, and to a man and a woman they're prepared to step up and help.’’
Spring ball?: While numerous scenarios are on the table, Barbour is not a fan of football moving to the spring.
“It would be a last resort,’’ she said. “One of the biggest challenges — it's probably the biggest one in my mind — is the proximity to the next season, and frankly a second year without spring ball.’’
Shortened seasons are already likely in some Penn State sports. Barbour said some scheduled opponents have already contacted her to say they won’t be playing this fall, although not in football.
Season tickets: Barbour said there was a renewal rate for football season tickets of 94% to 95%, and an additional 3,000 season tickets have been sold.
“One of the things I can say with certainty,’’ she said, “is that without a season ticket, no matter what our capacity is, you're probably not coming to a Penn State game this year.’’
On the giant issue of who will actually get to go to games and what the fan experience will entail, Barbour had no answers, except the obvious: There won’t be 100,000-plus fans inside Beaver Stadium any time soon.
“There’s going to need to be restrictions on lots of things,’’ she said.
Extra eligibility: Barbour estimated that 25-30 Penn State athletes who were seniors in 2020 are taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility, allowed by the NCAA and Penn State, because of the pandemic.
The cost to the University will be $600,000 to $700,000, which Barbour said has been completely covered by private donors.
Further, Barbour said Penn State athletes who choose not to return this school year because of COVID-19 concerns will not lose athletic or academic standing.
“The decision is completely theirs,’’ she said. “Their scholarship is is not in jeopardy at all. We will work with them on that.’’
Weighing in on protests: Players not being on the field pre-game for the national anthem is, as Barbour said, “the predominant operational mode,’’ at Penn State and for most of college football.
Any form of visible social justice protest before games would likely involve a procedural change. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Barbour said every year she’s been an athletic director (a total of 24 years, at Tulane, Cal and Penn State), she has told each school’s athletes, “This is the time to find their voices, and I will support them 100%, even if I don’t agree.’’
She put three conditions on that: 1. Do it respectfully. 2. Know what you’re talking about. 3. Make sure your coach knows about it.
“They’re not asking for permission, just make sure the coach knows what you’re doing,’’ she said, adding that, “I’m sure we’ll see a lot of that this fall.’’