No cases of the coronavirus reported at Penn State with football team
While some college football teams have reported double-figure results of players testing positive for the coronavirus, it’s been so far, so good for Penn State.
Athletic Director Sandy Barbour met the media via Zoom on Wednesday and said of the 102 student-athletes tested upon their return to campus, not one has tested positive.
She said six teams have begun voluntary workouts, including football and men’s and women’s basketball. She said the preliminary testing number did not include 60 or 70 from the men’s and women’s soccer programs that were tested Monday.
“I’m very impressed with how our students are following the safety standards,” Barbour, speaking from California and wearing a mask to start the conference, said.
Barbour said any student-athlete arriving on campus will be ìhighly discouragedî from leaving because it will require a retest and subsequent quarantine. Athletes will be tested “upon arrival and as symptomatic,” she said.
She said the athletic department plans to release testing results every two weeks. That does not include faculty and staff, she said, which will be bundled with the Centre County numbers.
A few teams have been hit hard by the virus, including Clemson, which had 37 players test positive. LSU had 30.
Barbour said there’s a school of thought that suggests it’s better for players to test positive now and be healthy for the season, which she considers, “completely unethical” if done purposely and with disregard for social distancing.
Barbour, entering her seventh year as AD, said Penn State is mapping out ìa lot of different scenarios’ for the season that will depend on the status of the virus.
One thing she seemed certain about is forthcoming pay cuts to the athletic department, herself included. Barbour earned $1.2 million in 2019-20. James Franklin is Penn State’s highest paid employee at $6 million per year.
“I’ve had conversations with our head coaches and management team about the possibility of pay reductions,” she said. “Our financial challenge will be of the magnitude that we’ll need to do something around pay, and to a man and woman, theyíre prepared to step up.”
Michigan announced across-the-board reductions earlier this week.
Barbour said Penn State’s athletic department, which is self-sufficient, has not furloughed any employees, other than part-time seasonal workers, and sheís put off trimming compensation as long as possible but said decisions will be finalized in the coming weeks.
PSU’s fiscal year ended Tuesday. StateCollege.com’s Mike Poorman reported the athletic department turned a profit of $10.12 million in 2017-18, which fell to $4.6 million in 2018-19.
This year, and likely next, will be uglier.
“I didn’t want to ask for too much or too little,” Barbour said of looming cuts. “Given the severity of what we’re anticipating, it’s probably unavoidable.”
Penn State has held off on determining Beaver Stadium capacity for this season, if there is one, but Barbour confirmed she highly doubts a full house is possible.
She said Penn State will follow Department of Health guidelines and Pennsylvania’s recommendations.
“I know the fans are anxious to know, but we still have some more time,” she said. “Everything we do will relate to our health and safety, and we’re not quite there yet.”
She said Penn State’s season-ticket renewal was 94-95%, meaning no single-game tickets will be available. She also speculated that “it may not be possible” for those gathering in the parking lots without tickets but eager to tailgate.
She’s sensitive to the economic engine that revs because of Penn State football — how important it is to the community and “morale,” but “the bottom line is if it’s safe to do it, we will, and if it’s not, we won’t.”
ESPN reported last week that there’s strong consideration being given to the opening of the season being delayed, and Barbour acknowledged, “No doubt there’s a little more pessimism in the last couple weeks. The approach I’m taking is it’s part of the ebb and flow of the virus.”
She called bumping the season to the spring, a concept that gained traction two months ago, “a last resort” mainly because of the proximity to the next season.
Franklin has said some players have expressed reservations about returning but has not named any. Barbour said scholarships will be honored regardless of decisions.
She said 20 to 25 athletes who lost their spring seasons have taken advantage of the extra year opportunity, but that has added nearly $700,000 of expense to the department’s bottom line.
Concerning potential protests for racial inequality, Barbour said she encourages student-athletes to “use their voices, respectfully” and she expects to see expressions of unity, including kneeling, this fall.
“Coaches and administrations will have these conversations on a team-by-team basis,” she said. “I’m really proud of the way our student-athletes have used their voices in the last month. We have to find more effective ways to eradicate racism. Itís been going on far, far too long.”
Barbour did the teleconference from California because of a death in her family.