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‘We will have spring ball’: Barbour gives state of PSU

Photo by Penn State Athletics: AD Sandy Barbour

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour assured that the Nittany Lions will have spring football practice but could not commit to holding the annual Blue-White Game this spring.

“We will have spring ball,” Barbour confirmed during a 45-minute Zoom call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.

That means the football players will practice, as well as work out and train, Barbour later confirmed. The rest of the PSU teams currently playing — from men’s and women’s basketball to wrestling and others — are practicing, so football would be no different in that regard this spring.

As long as everyone is safe during the COVID pandemic, sports will keep on keeping on.

“I’ve been pretty clear about our priorities, and that certainly health and safety of our student-athletes, our coaches, our staff, and then ultimately that that obviously can impact our community,” Barbour said.

Penn State had spring practice canceled last year because of the coronavirus. As for whether PSU will have the Blue-White Game, Barbour said this:

“I think that’s too early to tell right now, in terms of what are the conditions going to be. If it were to be today, we’d be limited to about 2,500 (fans) in Beaver Stadium. The Big Ten right now, I don’t know whether they have purview over spring games, but if they did, it would be limited to families of players and staff. So, we’re gonna have to get a lot closer to what the time frame would be before we can really decide if we’re going to have a Blue-White Game and/or what that might look like.”

Barbour addressed numerous issues Tuesday in a state of Penn State type of new conference. She addressed the men’s basketball coaching situation a couple of times, and we’ll have a separate story on that in a bit.

Here are some of the main points:

**Penn State is committed to keeping 31 sports progams: A few Power Five schools have elected to cut sports, but that is not of interest to Barbour and Penn State.

“That’s not something I’m interested in. It’s not something I’m looking at,” she said. “We’ve got a very proud tradition of and legacy of a large, robust program.”

**PSU’s revenue shortfall figure has gone down substantially: Previous numbers given by Barbour indicated a revenue shortfall of $60-90 million because of the pandemic. Now, that number figures to be around $20-25 million.

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“We’ve done everything we can to make sure that that our revenues stay, that we get access to as much of our revenues as we can,” Barbour said. “Obviously we’ve not accessed ticket revenue and won’t in this fiscal year. We have accessed our television revenue, which has been huge. And then on the expense side, there have been a lot of sacrifices. I referred before to both individual and organizational sacrifices. Our employees have taken have taken pay cuts. We’ve had a small number of furloughs. We’ve held positions open. We’ve reduced our expenses by somewhere north of of $25 million.

“So, you add all that up. You use our reserves — which we were fortunate to have — we were storing those away to do something else with but we’re fortunate to have them. And I think our number is going to come in somewhere between $20 and $25 million. So that’s a that’s a big advancement from looking a $90 to $100. million. It’s still going to exact some pain. But not what 90 million would.”

**Will there be fans at games during 2021 football season?: The virus certainly will play a major role in that, but Barbour and Penn State are going full force ahead in planning to pack Beaver Stadium.

“We’re planning on obviously on a 2021 season where we’ll have fans,” she said. “We can scale that from everything from 107,000 on down. And as we get closer to that, we’ll have to take a look at if there are restrictions, what they are and what the financial ramifications will be to it. So it just depends on on what we’re looking at.

She later went on to say: “Based on the rollover and new sales, we’re over 90% renewed. You know the passion for Penn State football and now the pent-up demand is huge. Will there be people that won’t come because of their concerns? Probably, there’ll be some. But we have to operationalize it, and then we have to project what we’re looking at from revenues.”

**An incredible statistic: Barbour said the Penn State football program had ONLY ONE positive COVID test for the entire season.

“And we know that was contracted outside of football,” she added.

False positive tests continued to be a problem for the football program throughout the season, and Barbour said they never were able to figure out exactly what led to those. She did point out that the machines used to analyze tests were to be sent to another location with Penn State Athletics, but instead the university just sent them back.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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