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Penn State Football: Window Continues To Shrink For On-Time Start For College Football Season

by on April 16, 2020 10:20 AM

With Penn State announcing on Thursday morning that the University will continue its remote learning programs throughout the summer semesters, it presents Penn State Athletics with its first scheduling obstacle when it comes to starting its respective seasons on time.

While Penn State officials have made it clear that students might return to campus for learning at some point during the summer -if health and safety allows for it- as it stands today, students will not be returning to campus any earlier than the fall semester, if even then. A decision on the fall term has yet to be made as of this time.

In turn, Penn State football's belief that the program needs at least 60 days to prepare for the upcoming season pushes a return to campus deadline into early July relative to a September 5th season-opening kick.

"I think that 60 days. Now [that we've talk to] our sports science folks, strength and conditioning, our head team physician, to really look at this from a health and safety standpoint — and we believe given the amount of time that training has been taking place elsewhere, for football, we think that 60-day window is right about right,” Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said earlier this spring.

While it's possible -in theory- that Penn State could opt for some sort of summer practice schedule that would allow student athletes on campus prior to the rest of the student body, that thinking would run in directly counter to previous statements made by Barbour indicating that campus access for athletes would match that of their fellow classmates. 

"I'll go back to kind of one of our major principles," Barbour said. "We're not coming back to campus, whether it's students or whether it's student-athletes, they're not coming back to campus until it's safe and healthy and prudent to do so.”

Penn State is not the only school facing a crunch, Ohio State announced on April 1 that it will follow similar guidance and will teach summer courses remotely as well. Ohio State's academic calendar has commencement scheduled for August 9th, Penn State's summer commencement is August 15th. The Buckeyes had begun at least part of their spring practice schedule prior to the Big Ten and NCAA's cancelation of on campus athletic gatherings.

Historically Penn State has begun preseason camp roughly the first week of August.

In terms of other interruptions, traditionally Penn State women's soccer is the first program to kick off the athletic calendar with a match near the end of August. That program has yet to announce a 2020 schedule.

Overall much will undoubtedly change between today's announcement and a scheduled September 5th kick, but as the window continues to squeeze around the college football season, it seems increasingly likely that growing momentum for a February-to-May season could prove to be the most tenable option as the days tick onward.

Of course, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, academic calendars  and schedules are much more window dressing to a larger problem, one which is currently operating on its own timetable.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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