Beaver Stadium, where Penn State Football plays its home games, boasts being the second-largest stadium in the country. After its renovation in 2001, it gained a capacity of 107,282 people. Then, in 2014 that capacity decreased to 106,572. Even more than that flock to the tailgate lots hours before kickoff. It’s not just the amount of fans. It is also the engagement from each and every single one that brings a Penn State football game to life. Last season against Michigan, during the White Out, the fans caused the Wolverines to take a timeout before the game even started. It was either burn a timeout to start the game or take a delay of game penalty. The fans did that. So, can anyone imagine what a Penn State Football game would be like with reduced fans?
Penn State Football With Reduced Fans?
Penn State University has yet to come out and say that there will not be fans in Beaver Stadium in 2020. They have delayed Penn State student ticket sales. In addition, sent attendance surveys out to ticketholders. Finally, they’ve told Lettermen that they would not be on the field for games. According to a letter to the Lettermen that came out last week, the usual on-field protocols will not occur this season. This is for the safety of the student-athletes, coaches, staff, and the Lettermen themselves. Further, in that letter, there was a phrase about attendance being drastically reduced for the season. This letter to the Lettermen is parallel to what Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, Sandy Barbour, stated in an interview on Wednesday.
Hopefully, Beaver Stadium won’t be without fans in 2020, but with the ongoing pandemic, it is unknown. The university is still working with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and other state officials to determine what a game in Beaver Stadium will look like this season. Currently, almost all PA counties have moved to the “green phase” of reopening the state. The last county will get there this Friday, but social distancing guidelines put out by the CDC are still in effect.
So, how will Penn State keep fans in the stadium, but maintain the guidelines currently in place by the PA government? Barbour has an answer for that. “One of the things I can say with certainty, and obviously there’s not much I can say with certainty, but without a season ticket, no matter what our capacity is, you’re probably not coming to a Penn State game this year,” Barbour said in an interview on Wednesday.
More Like the Blue-White Game?
The last time Penn State held their annual Blue-White Spring Game in 2019, the attendance was recorded at 61,000 fans. This is really the only time that Penn State Football plays with reduced fans. Further, that might still be too many people. Currently, large gatherings in Pennsylvania are not permitted to have more than 250 people. There also has not been a large scale event taken place in Pennsylvania since March. Nascar conducted a doubleheader at Pocono over the weekend without fans. If Governor Wolf allows, Penn State will likely be the trial run for such events.
As stated above, Beaver Stadium holds 106,572 fans. Currently, all restaurants in Pennsylvania are operating at 50% capacity. If Governor Wolf decides that Penn State Athletics can operate football games at 50% capacity then that will allow the maximum capacity to be roughly 53,286 fans. To give a visual benchmark, that is nearly 7,000 fans fewer than the Blue-White game had in 2019.
How Will the Football Players Adapt?
The players are used to playing in front of smaller crowds. The only stadium in the Big Ten that holds more fans than Beaver Stadium is the Big House of Michigan. Playing in front of fewer fans won’t be the problem. The problem will come when there are fewer fans inside of a very large stadium. Penn State Football players rarely play in front of reduced fans where it is noticeable unless the opposing fans get dejected and leave, but then the game is usually handled. Regardless of how many fans are allowed inside, the players should definitely expect reduced or, sadly, no fans in 2020. If any team is ready for that challenge, it’s the Nittany Lions.