Penn State will hold an encore spring football practice, one that the senior class can attend.
Penn State will hold the "special football practice" April 23 at Beaver Stadium. Coach James Franklin said he expects the practice to be held at night. Seniors taking in-person or remote classes at Penn State's University Park campus are eligible to attend.
The football team held a practice April 17 at Beaver Stadium that more than 7,500 fans attended, many of them first-year students. Originally, it was scheduled to be the final practice of spring drills, but Penn State adjusted its schedule to add another week.
"We are excited to be able to welcome our seniors for this special spring practice and give them a chance to see Penn State Football in Beaver Stadium before graduation," Athletics Director Sandy Barbour said in a statement. "The seniors have exhibited such resilience over the last year, as has the rest of our campus community, and we are so proud of everything they have accomplished during their time at Penn State."
Pennsylvania currently allows outdoor events to be held at 50 percent of venue capacity. Penn State President Eric Barron said in a statement that the university had intended to invite seniors to Saturday's practice as well but changed plans as COVID-19 case numbers began to rise in the state.
Barron said Penn State's spring football practice schedule was modified to allow for the extra week. The NCAA permits teams to conduct 15 practices during the spring.
"This is an important moment for our seniors and we had intended to extend the opportunity for them to attend the April 17 spring practice, but we were unable due to community health concerns when cases started to rise," Barron said. "However, the practices were extended and as health conditions have stabilized, we are thankful to make this shift in programming so that seniors can showcase their Penn State spirit and participate in this longstanding tradition."
Penn State announced in March that first-year students would be allowed to attend a practice, which was intended to serve as a modified version of the annual Blue-White Game.
The decision prompted some pushback from other Penn State students. About 12,000 people signed a petition asking Penn State to allow seniors to attend practice.
Penn State said that face-coverings and physical-distancing requirements will remain in place for both events. Tailgating will not be permitted outside either practice.
"We appreciate our students’ enthusiasm and the energy they will bring into the stadium and are thrilled that we are able to extend this opportunity," Barron said. "The majority of our students are taking the appropriate steps to help mitigate the spread of the virus by masking and staying physically distant. However, students must continue to follow public health guidance leading up to — and on the day of — the practice for this event to be able to take place."