As Penn State plans to have full on-campus learning in the fall, its athletic department also is hoping to fully bring back fans to venues, according to Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour.
Barbour, who joined the Penn State Coaches Show Monday night, said Penn State hopes to make sure it can have “as many Penn Staters who want to be in Beaver Stadium” and other on-campus venues, like Rec Hall and Pegula Ice Arena, as possible next fall by emphasizing mask-wearing and social distancing today. She said ongoing vaccine distribution across the country will help those efforts, too.
Ultimately, though, Penn State’s plans will rely on the pandemic’s trends and trajectory over the spring and summer.
“All of our efforts, all of our planning, is to be able to have full venues, and we’re just going to have to monitor the COVID situation and the advice,” Barbour said. “But we’re going to push really hard. We’re going to prepare for venues where every Penn Stater who wants to come, and who has a ticket, has the opportunity to do that.”
Barbour cited Penn State’s plans to fully return to in-person instruction next fall as a positive sign for potentially bringing fans back to Happy Valley. The university also is “exploring options” to host in-person commencement ceremonies for spring graduates.
“We want to make sure, from an athletics perspective, that we do everything we can to help protect those opportunities and help ensure that those will be available to our greater community,” Barbour said.
On that point, Barbour said Penn State is keeping local interests in mind, too. She noted that her department is taking “a little bit of the long view” in considering how returning fans would impact the community and its health.
Plans to bring fans back to stadiums come after Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf relaxed statewide guidelines on gathering sizes and interstate travel. Under the latest recommendations, venues can host outdoor events at 20% capacity and indoor events at 15% capacity. To save you a quick calculation, that would amount to about 21,000 fans at Beaver Stadium.
However, it’s up to institutions themselves to modify guidelines to match the state’s.
Despite sounding optimistic about the fall, Barbour didn’t comment on Penn State potentially hosting its annual Blue-White Game this spring. Last year’s edition of the annual scrimmage was ultimately canceled due to the pandemic.
Penn State football will begin spring football practice on Monday. Last season’s spring ball was cut short due to the pandemic, too.