President Barron: Penn State Football Could Create ‘Super-Spreader’ Event
University President Eric Barron hosted a virtual town hall Monday afternoon and discussed the fall semester, on-campus safety and health, and Penn State football’s potential 2020 season.
Near the end of his hour-long session, Barron addressed the one thing on everyone’s mind: football. Although he doesn’t oversee athletic events himself, the president remained non-committal to inviting fans to Beaver Stadium this fall.
Barron reiterated that plans aren’t concrete yet but emphasized potentially congregating thousands of fans in one place (read: Beaver Stadium) could “[have] the potential to create [a] super-spreader event” and undo progress Penn State could make toward combating the coronavirus’ spread on campus.
He also added no major universities, including Penn State, have announced plans to fill stadiums this fall.
“I know of no school for which Penn State has interaction [with] that is planning to fill stadiums,” Barron said. “And in fact, at most, they’re considering a very reduced number of students. So for example, electronic ticketing, no cash, different sanitation procedures, social distancing.”
Penn State’s planned guidelines include enforcing wearing face masks in classes and around campus, quarantining individuals at the Nittany Lion Inn, and implementing increased testing and contact-tracing.
Penn State also plans to limit student travel by holding classes on Labor Day and moving online following Thanksgiving. He believes inviting fans to Beaver Stadium could offset those efforts by bringing in thousands of foreign visitors.
Barron emphasized “much greater conversations” will take place at Penn State and around the country in the coming weeks regarding college football.
Currently, under Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s athletic guidelines, Penn State would need to limit games to 50% occupancy if it allowed fans to attend games. They’d also need to wear masks and following social distancing protocols as best they can.
Still, there’s reason to be optimistic about Penn State football this fall. The team recently returned a good number of its student-athletes to campus for voluntary summer workouts. Additionally, the NCAA approved a six-week preseason model to help programs get in shape for the season.
Penn State Athletics didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment regarding Barron’s comments in today’s town hall.
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