Penn State Football: Barbour Eyes 60-Day Window to Prepare for Football Season, Whenever That Might Be
Penn State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour said on Thursday that she thinks the football program will need roughly 60 days to prepare for any upcoming football season once restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic are lifted.
“I think that 60 days... now we’ve relied on 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 about right,” Barbour told the media on a video conference call.
As it stands today, Penn State is 157 days from its season opening game against Kent State currently scheduled for Sept. 5. The Nittany Lions have traditionally started training camp at the beginning of August but at that time have also had the benefit of spring practice and any voluntary workout programs over the summer.
The absence of such programs creates not only a quality of play issue, but more importantly safety hurdles relative to player's readiness for the rigors of a season.
The Big Ten recently extended its blanket cancelation of all activities until May 4 after initially setting a reevaluation date for early April. Penn State has suspended all on-campus activities through the remainder of the spring semester and does not seem on track for that to change heading into the summer academic calendar.
Barbour's 60-day window from a Sept. 5 start would fall in early July, roughly 60 days from the current May 4 date set by the Big Ten, theoretically allowing for another round of delays without modifying that desired window of lead-up time.
Nationally the NCAA has halted all recruiting until May 31.
Elsewhere across the Big Ten, Ohio State has moved all summer classes to an online format that will end on July 31, meaning the Buckeyes seem unlikely to hit the practice field before that date.
Asked about the possibility of playing football in front of an empty Beaver Stadium, Barbour did not foresee a scenario where student athletes were considered safe enough return to campus but fans were still at risk in the stands. Effectively, if games are not safe enough for fans to attend, it is not safe enough for football or other sports to take place as well.
"I don't see [an intersection with] health and safety, [students] returned to campuses, which would include student athletes. I don't say that mixing with, with the ability to play without fans. So mechanically it would work. Does it realistically work given the health and safety issues. We're not going to bring students back to campus until it's safe," she said.
Overall, Barbour's message on Thursday was that of so many others in the college athletics world, Penn State is preparing for a wide array of possibilities, but with so many unknowns many of the major questions are left only tentatively answered.
Oh, and playing in next spring instead?
“I believe it’s in everyone’s best interest that, when it’s safe and right to do so, that we play a football season," Barbour said. "We’ve already addressed the emotional and morale piece for communities across this country. And then certainly, obviously, there’s a revenue and financial piece to it. So, if our [football] return fits into a time frame that we have to do it in a non-traditional part of the year, I think we’ll all look to try to make that happen.”