On the eve of football, Barron letter stresses safety in cheering for Lions

October 12, 2020

Dear Penn State Community:

Just a few months ago, safely playing football and other fall sports felt like an impossibility. But in a few weeks, the Big Ten will return to competition with increased safety protocols in place, and I know Coach Franklin, our student-athletes and fans will be ready. From the outset of planning, our focus has been on the health and well-being of our student-athletes and our community at large. We understand the excitement that the football season brings, and we know that many people long for the sense of normalcy that watching our team from the stands would create. However, in this pandemic year, our responsibility to our community calls us to come together – virtually – with a focus on safety first.

  • As we have shared before, based on the Big Ten agreement, no teams will be filling their stadiums with spectators. In fact, only the coaching staff and family members of the players will be permitted into Beaver Stadium during games. This not only provides for an equal playing field, but more importantly, it reduces the high risks associated with large gatherings and transfer of the virus.
  • We share concerns within our University and the State College community that large groups of well-intentioned fans may still try to watch games together or tailgate during a time of necessary social distancing. We agree with infectious disease experts: This is not the time for visitors.
  • Penn State will close its parking lots and absolutely not permit tailgating in or around the stadium or anywhere on campus.
  • We also will continue to partner with area law enforcement to support municipal ordinances that limit gatherings and require wearing a face mask.

It is especially important that everyone clearly understands that our efforts to achieve a downward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases in the region could be jeopardized if there is an influx – even a small influx – of visitors to town. We love our Nittany Lion fans – and we want to keep them healthy and safe until experts determine there is a time when we can again come together without fear of contracting what is for some a deadly virus.

In the coming days and weeks, you’ll be hearing, not just from the University, but also from local businesses, community leaders and health officials about the importance of protecting our University and the broader communities. We are partnered with those mentioned above in our work to remain vigilant in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. You may continue to hear or see the phrase: “Our Community. Our Responsibility.” We take this phrase seriously and know that our students, alumni, friends and fans care about Nittany Nation, and also will take this responsibility to heart.

Even though we cannot be together in person, I am grateful that our community can support our student-athletes and cheer on our team with the same renowned spirit as displayed in person, only now from the comfort and safety of their living rooms. We know that our loyal and creative fans will find new ways to enjoy and show their love for Penn State football and stay socially connected to one another – even while physically apart – and the University also is helping to make that happen. Penn State Athletics announced the ‘Virtual Valley Experience’ as a way to virtually bring Nittany Lion fans to football game days. Fans from anywhere will be able to purchase cutouts of themselves to be placed inside Beaver Stadium for the entire 2020 football season, and portions of the net proceeds from this initiative will be donated to THON, as well as Penn State equity and inclusion programs: the Bunton-Waller scholarship program and Multicultural Faculty Development Support Funds.

Additionally, the Raise the Song virtual campaign asks Penn State fans to submit videos of themselves cheering on the Nittany Lions. Those videos will be used in-stadium on game day to support our student-athletes. Videos may also be featured during virtual programming or on Penn State Athletics social media accounts. At University Park, some students, particularly our freshmen in our residence halls, will have the opportunity to attend our first outdoor, social-distanced watch party on Oct. 31 organized by Student Affairs in accordance with public health guidelines and the governor’s limitations (more details will be shared with students prior to the game). For students across our campuses, the best way to help us have a successful season is to remain in your campus communities, watch with your roommates, and not travel to other areas. Until campus-based, residential instruction ends on Nov. 20 and students return home for the remainder of the semester, parents and friends should plan to celebrate game days with their students virtually.

This football season, as unusual and unfamiliar as it may be, promises to again be one in which our Nittany Lions show the nation the amazing talent, character and skills of our student-athletes and coaches. It also will be a time to show the nation and the world that we value and uphold our responsibility for the health and safety of one another. Not just those in our Nittany Nation, but also those beyond campus borders as we reduce travel and avoid large gatherings for the benefit of all. This is our opportunity to remind everyone why we are and always will be Penn State proud – together or apart.

We Are, Penn State.

Eric Barron

President, Penn State

Last Updated October 12, 2020