In a Monday town hall with Penn State students, university president Eric Barron expressed caution surrounding how the 2020 college football season will unfold in Happy Valley.
Barron did not seem keen on allowing many spectators into Beaver Stadium if games were to be played this fall. The possibility of thousands in attendance yelling could lead to a "super-spreader" type of event, even in an outdoor setting. Many super-spreader events have taken place in locations such as churches where singing and yelling are the norm, leading to an increase in the number of respiratory droplets released into the surrounding air. In Italy, a Champions League soccer match was viewed as a "biological bomb" that led to extreme growth of Covid-19 cases both in Italy, as well as Spain.
PSU President Eric Barron was asked about football season during the town hall. Nothing concrete yet, but pointed to crowds "having the potential to create super spreader events" and therefore eliminate all the efforts PSU is putting forth by limiting student travel in the fall.— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) June 22, 2020
According to Barron, his thinking seems to be line with other Big Ten schools, who will also not be allowing full stadiums for games in the fall.
Eric Barron: "I know of no school for which Penn State has interaction that is planning to fill stadiums. 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"— Audrey Snyder (@audsnyder4) June 22, 2020
These comments come on the same day as the University of Iowa announced a freeze on future 2020 season ticket sales. Barron's full comments can be found below.
Student-athletes have been returning to campus across the country this month as schools had hoped that a university bubble would help to keep all members healthy. Results have been worse than most have hoped. Last week alone, Clemson announced that 23 players had tested positive for COVID-19, Texas had 13 positive cases, and 30 LSU players were in quarantine because of an outbreak linked to the town's bar district. Both Kansas State and Houston have suspended workouts due to outbreaks amongst their teams. All of this, of course, comes before thousands of students begin to make their way back to campus in August across the nation.
Reading between the lines of Barron's comments, it seems far-fetched that the university would feel great about letting anyone who wasn't already on campus into Beaver Stadium in 2020 if the season were to play out for fear of "reset(ing) the COVID clock". There is always the possibility of playing in front of empty stadiums as is happening in soccer stadiums across Europe at the moment, or waiting until the spring to have a shortened college football season. Whatever the case, it's more and more likely that the upcoming season will be anything but normal.