Spectators will not be allowed at Penn State athletic events this fall, under current guidelines from Pennsylvania state government.
If the restrictions are loosened, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said Thursday, the university has a plan for limited attendance.
“We continue to work, and have been for months now, with the governor’s office,’’ Barbour said during a news conference Thursday. “(We are hoping) for the opportunity where we might have a little bit of flexibility.’’
Without that flexibility, all intercollegiate games played on Penn State’s campus this fall will be played with 250 people or less in an outdoor facility and 25 or less in an indoor facility, as per Gov. Tom Wolf’s guidelines for public gatherings.
(Wolf’s recommendation, made Thursday, that there be no sports in the Commonwealth until Jan. 1, 2021, applies to high school and youth sports, not college sports.)
Barbour sent an email message to Penn State’s football season ticket holders Thursday, giving them the options of changing their 2020 ticket payment into a tax-deductible donation to the athletic department, rolling their season tickets over to the 2021 season, or requesting a refund.
The email included an acknowledgment from Barbour that “our revenue losses will be in the high eight figures, reaching nine figures in the case of no competition.’’
Barbour said she has chosen to take a 15% pay cut. She added, “We’ve given guidelines around pay cuts,’’ for Penn State’s coaches and other athletic staff,’’ but, “I’m certainly not going to speak on behalf of anybody else.’’
Asked in May if he was taking a pay cut, head football coach James Franklin said he was giving a donation to the university centered on aid to students.
Barbour said Penn State developed a plan for limited, COVID-19-sensitive attendance at games and presented it to state government in an effort to get an exception to Wolf’s 250/25 limitation.
The request was turned down, but the plan could still be implemented if things change by the proposed Sept. 5 start date to the Big Ten sports season.
Details were given in a power-point presentation during Thursday’s news conference by Associate Athletic Director of Capital Events and Facilities Carl Heck.
It included reducing the capacity of Beaver Stadium to 23,275 (from 106,572), zoned entry to the stadium to allow contract tracing, and seating of students and season-ticket holders in socially-distanced “pods.’’
The plan was created with the assistance of three surveys of fans and students that received a total of about 30,000 responses.
The survey indicated fans ranked their likelihood of attending a Penn State football game, “second only to shopping at a grocery store.’’
Highest priorities mentioned by fans for stadium operations were the mask requirement and hand sanitizer provided throughout the venue.
Masks will be required, and the plan calls for over 1,000 hand-sanitizing stations to be placed throughout the stadium.
Barbour also mentioned working with the governor’s office on the possibility of considering the press box structure on one side of the stadium and the luxury-box structure on the other side as “their own, separate buildings.’’
Presumably, that would allow media members and suite owners to attend games and not count toward the 250 limit.
The Big Ten announced its football schedule and COVID-19 protocols Wednesday. Penn State's season is scheduled to begin Saturday, Sept. 5, at home, against Northwestern.