Thirty of Penn State’s 31 sports teams are either practicing or playing or both right now.
The exception, of course, is football. But the football team’s winter conditioning program is underway, and athletic director Sandy Barbour said Tuesday spring practice is scheduled to begin, as usual, in March.
The athletic department is expected to lose $20-25 million dollars in the 2020-21 academic year, nowhere near Barbour’s own projection of $60-90 million made in the spring.
Barbour said renewal of football season tickets is over 90 percent. She dismissed the notion that Penn State would consider dropping a sport, as other Big Ten and Power Five conference schools have done.
“That’s not something that we’re looking at,’’ she said. “It’s not something I’m interested in.’’
There have been sacrifices, including pay cuts, expense cuts, and a few furloughs within the department. Barbour said the department has dipped into some cash reserves, “we were storing away to do something else with.’’
On the other hand, head football coach James Franklin just fired an offensive coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, after one year of a multi-year contract (meaning a buyout was involved), and replaced him with an OC, Mike Yurcich, who has made as much as $1.7 million elsewhere.
Penn State athletics appears to have taken the pandemic’s best shot and at least survived.
The biggest big-picture hit might be to a long-term facilities master plan that included a renovation of Beaver Stadium.
“The facilities master plan was always focused on being funded by philanthropy,’’ Barbour said. “The pandemic and the financial realities will probably cause us to take a step back there.’’
Other news from Barbour’s 45-minute session:
*Barbour said she plans to hire a new men’s basketball coach immediately after the end of the current season.
Patrick Chambers resigned from that job in October amid a University investigation of allegations of inappropriate interaction with players, and replaced, on an interim basis, by assistant Jim Ferry.
*Barbour declined to address discontent within the basketball program in the immediate wake of Chambers’ resignation.
“I made a statement in October, and I know it fell short of what you all wanted,’’ she said. “If there’s any group I would like to provide information to, it would be our students. But, we’ve made all the comments we’re going to make.’’
*Asked to assess the 2020 football season, which Penn State started with five straight losses and finished with a four-game win streak, Barbour admitted that, “our start was challenging and disturbing.’’
She added, though, that “I think James and his staff found a lot of answers, … what you saw in the back half of that season is way more indicative of our program.’’
*Barbour also lauded Franklin’s relentless adherence to COVID-19 healthy measures, while other football coaches, on all levels, continue to show up on television with masks around their chin rather than their face.
“It’s no coincidence that we only had one positive (test) in football,’’ she said. “And that was contracted outside of football. It was because James led the way.’’