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Recapping Penn State Athletics’ Whirlwind Week

To put things lightly, it’s been a wild week for Penn State Athletics.

From sobering news to exciting announcements, Penn State fans and student-athletes have seen it all over the past few days. Honestly, it’s reinforced the quarantine-era philosophy that time doesn’t exist and every day is both the same as the day before and a uniquely mind-boggling experience.

To put things into perspective and catch our collective breath, let’s take a look back on what might’ve been the most up-and-down week in recent Penn State Athletics history.

Monday, August 3

In all honesty, Monday wasn’t too bad. Things got started that morning when three-star quarterback Beau Pribula committed to Penn State football’s Class of 2022, and the train kept rolling when Penn State softball announced it’d hired Clarisa Crowell as its next head coach.

Later that afternoon, former Penn State football safety Jordan Lucas announced he’d opt out of the 2020 NFL season, becoming the first known Nittany Lion to take leave at the professional level.

Tuesday, August 4

Tuesday was an even quieter day…well, until that night.

Yahoo! Sports sent college football Twitter into a frenzy around 10 p.m. when it reported star Penn State linebacker planned to opt out of the upcoming season and begin training for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Fans were initially understandably bummed to hear the fan-favorite Nittany Lions intended to move on to greener pastures. However, Twitter users quickly voiced their support for Parsons’ reported decision and encouraged him to pursue his NFL dream and do what’s best for him moving forward.

Wednesday, August 5

The Big Ten began Wednesday with a bang when it released its updated 10-game football schedules for the 2020 season. The conference did away with non-conference opponents to cut down on unnecessary travel and make potential reschedulings easier, as it’d only be working within its jurisdiction.

The updated schedule honored the nine previously scheduled conference games Penn State already had under its belt and added an additional matchup against Illinois to end the regular season. Assuming the season actually comes to fruition, the Nittany Lions will kick off against Northwestern at home on September 5.

The Big Ten also provided an update on its coronavirus mitigation efforts and health protocols. The conference mandated student-athletes in “high-contact” sports be tested at least twice a week.

Later that afternoon, more than 1,000 Big Ten football players collectively published a letter in The Players’ Tribune demanding the conference and NCAA take additional steps to prepare for the upcoming season. Their requests included granting automatic medical redshirts to those who miss any games, increasing transparency surrounding coronavirus testing, and providing increased financial aid to student-athletes in need.

The NCAA rounded out the busy day when it announced it would require conferences and divisions to make a final ruling on fall sports and NCAA championships by Friday, August 21.

Thursday, August 6

Penn State got the ball rolling early Thursday morning when it sent an email to football season ticket holders providing an update regarding the upcoming season. Most notably, the university officially stated it doesn’t plan to bring fans to any sporting events for the time being.

On a conference call that afternoon, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour clarified that sentiment and confirmed that, under current state guidelines, Penn State wouldn’t be able to bring any fans to sporting events this fall. Pennsylvania currently caps outdoor gatherings at 250 people, which, at a football game, would include student-athletes, coaches, and staff members.

During that call, Penn State gave the media a glimpse at what a reduced-capacity Beaver Stadium could look like. The plans, which aren’t official and couldn’t happen under current guidelines, would feature a capacity of about 23,000 fans, prepackaged concessions, and mandatory mask-wearing efforts.

Penn State also announced season ticket holders will be able to donate their tickets (tax-deductible!), roll them over to 2021, or request a full refund. Through refunding, though, they would maintain their renewal status but won’t be guaranteed their 2020 seat locations and parking in 2021.

Additionally, Micah Parsons confirmed he’s leaving Happy Valley to train for the NFL Draft, prematurely ending a Penn State career filled with star-studded moments. His departure will likely result in a linebacker corps that’s obviously talented but lacking experience.

Finally, Penn State checked in at No. 7 in the first Coaches’ Poll of the 2020 college football season.

Friday, August 7

Thankfully, the week ended on a quiet note when no major athletics-related news came out. However, former Penn State women’s soccer star and World Cup champ Ali Krieger announced she’s joining Orlando City Soccer Club’s broadcast team.

Meanwhile, the Blue Band (screw it, we’ll count it) announced trumpet player Keith Griffith will become the 60th drum major in program history. Griffith’s promotion officially ended the Frisbie dynasty, which stretched for the better part of the decade.

The Weekend & Beyond

Early Saturday, Penn State football confirmed safety Donovan Johnson will miss the 2020 season after sustaining an injury earlier this summer.

Saturday night, many Penn State football student-athletes, including Sean Clifford and Pat Freiermuth, voiced support for the upcoming college football season and bluntly tweeted they “want to play.” Their messages touted the university’s robust health protocols and praised Penn State’s staff members’ work to keep them safe.

Despite the feel-good messages, it’s unclear how the NCAA and Big Ten will move forward with college football. According to multiple reports, Big Ten presidents voted 12-2 to cancel the upcoming football season, but the decision isn’t final just yet. Experts believe the decision could be official within the coming days.

The uncertainty was cranked up to the next level after the Mid-American Conference announced it’d suspend its college football season due to the coronavirus pandemic, becoming the first FBS conference to shutter its season. Experts believe other conferences, including the Power Five, could follow suit in the coming days.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt is a junior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football aficionado, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza. He loves Seinfeld, is really into video games, and would wipe the floor with you in Halo. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ for bad sports takes or email him at [email protected]

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