Penn State football will not participate in a bowl game, the program announced on Saturday night following its 56-21 win over Illinois.
The decision to decline a bowl invitation was led by the players and was supported by coach James Franklin and Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour, according to a news release. Franklin said following the game that the team captains would discuss the decision with their position groups before talking with Franklin.
A week ago, following Penn State’s win over Michigan State, multiple players had indicated they would like to play in a bowl game but it’s unclear how much of that was authentic, had changed in the days following, or was simply deemed the most PR-friendly way to navigate any bowl-related questions in the moment.
Penn State will finish the season with a record of 4-5, one of only two Big Ten teams to play all nine scheduled games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘I couldn’t be more proud and encouraged by how our team conducted itself during this unprecedented season,’ Franklin said. ‘One of our four core values is a willingness to sacrifice, and our student-athletes, coaches and staff have all made incredible sacrifices both on and off the field in order for us to compete this year.
‘This has been a challenging nine months, but we are proud of how our student-athletes have navigated these difficult times. As you know, we rely on our captains and Leadership Council to provide a voice for our team, and our student-athletes made the difficult choice not to participate in a bowl this year in order to spend time with loved ones. We are fully supportive of their decision, knowing it has been many months since our students-athletes have been able to spend time with their families and the challenges they endured, both physically and mentally. This will be an opportunity for our guys to go home, see family and recharge for the spring semester.’
This season there were no bowl eligibility requirements, meaning the Nittany Lions — a major television draw — were likely to garner interest from Big Ten affiliated bowls, especially on a four-game winning streak.
‘Our student-athletes have made tremendous sacrifices this season in order to play the game they love,’ said Penn State vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour. ‘Because of their commitment to our process and protocols, we have remained healthy and are one of two teams in the Big Ten Conference to play in all nine scheduled games. Very few teams have handled playing during the pandemic as well as our program has, which fills me with Penn State pride. Our student-athletes will now have the opportunity for a well-deserved break to enjoy time with their families before returning for the spring semester.
‘I would also like the recognize all of the coaches and support staff members who have also made numerous sacrifices of their own for our student-athletes to compete this fall and moving forward.’
For the most part, players have not spent any significant time with their families since returning to campus during the late summer months.
Additionally, Franklin’s family has been spending the past months away from State College, closer to care for one his two daughters, Addison, who was diagnosed with sickle cell disease as a young child and as such is at a higher risk for COVID-19.
Penn State last missed a bowl game when it could be eligible in 2004. The Nittany Lions were not eligible to play in a bowl game in 2012 or 2013 because of NCAA sanctions.