Penn State Will Not Require Football Fans to Prove They're Vaccinated

Penn State still plans for capacity crowds, and masks indoors, for the start of the 2021 football season.
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Penn State continues to plan for a full Beaver Stadium for football games this fall and will not require fans to show proof of being vaccinated or a negative test for COVID-19 to attend.

At a news conference Saturday, Penn State Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said that requiring vaccinations for fans "is not in our plans at this point." Barbour added that negative COVID-19 tests will not be required and that fans must wear masks only in indoor areas (including suites and the press box) of Beaver Stadium.

The requirements are consistent with the university's policies regarding vaccinations for students and staff on campus. Barbour said that Penn State's athletics department is following state and CDC guidelines.

Penn State plays its first home game Sept. 11 against Ball State. Tickets are available, and Penn State recently offered a $30 one-day sale for the home-opener.

"Our campus leadership and our board really felt like the position we’ve taken is one that balances to the highest degree health and safety as well as personal choice and individual liberties, if you will," Barbour said.

Barbour said that fans will notice some changes upon returning to Beaver Stadium for the first time since November 2019. The university has expanded some stadium gates to reduce lines and congestion during popular entry times. And this season, fans will enter the stadium via mobile ticketing.

Penn State also will continue to incentivize early entry into Beaver Stadium to distribute gameday pedestrian traffic more evenly. For several years, Penn State has encouraged fans to enter the stadium earlier by showing other games on the scoreboards and offering concession discounts. That will continue as an additional distancing measure this season, Barbour said.

As it announced in June, Penn State also is welcoming the return of tailgating and team-arrival activities to Beaver Stadium.

"We just have to be smart and understand that the virus is with us," Barbour said. "We need to use our good judgment around that. But come to Beaver Stadium and enjoy a football Saturday for the first time in a couple of years."

Though the Big Ten has not announced its competitive policies regarding COVID-19, Barbour said that the conference will revert to its previous policy requiring teams to forfeit if they cannot participate in a game. Last season, the Big Ten worked with teams to reschedule games if they were unable to play because of COVID-19.

"Although perhaps not ideal given the seriousness obviously of the health and science nature of COVID, it's probably the right thing to do," Barbour said.

Penn State coach James Franklin has been a vocal advocate of vaccinations, encouraging fans to consider getting vaccinated to help fill Beaver Stadium this fall. Franklin and Gov. Tom Ridge appeared together at Beaver Stadium in May to promote statewide vaccinations.

Barbour said that 82.2 percent of Penn State athletes and Tier 1 staff (coaches and other employees who deal with athletes directly) are fully vaccinated. Penn State does not plan to release vaccination rates for specific teams.

"I think we all have to make some sacrifices, right?" Franklin said recently. "Our fourth core value [in the program] is sacrifice, and that means we all have to give a little something up to do that. ... And to be honest with you, I would love for our students and the people in Happy Valley and my players to be able to experience it because last year was not a true Penn State experience. So, I am asking and pleading for everybody to do everything they possibly can to give us the best chance to get back to what we would probably describe normal."

Penn State opens the season Sept. 4 at Wisconsin. The Badgers also will not require fans to be vaccinated and are requiring masks only in indoor areas of Camp Randall Stadium.

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