University and local community unite in fall sports season message

Health, safety of the entire community remains a joint town/gown priority with the start of the season

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As the Big Ten returns to competition and Penn State’s fall sports season ramps up, the University’s commitment to its strong partnership with the local community is playing a central role in planning to support Penn State teams. The health and safety of the entire community remains a joint town/gown priority as University officials, municipal leaders, local public health authorities, law enforcement and more prepare for the start of the Nittany Lion football season, which will take place without fans in attendance.

Importantly, a message of shared responsibility to the community — asking Penn State students, parents, fans, friends and alumni to do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 — will be disseminated broadly. The message encourages those groups to avoid large gatherings, remain physically distant, not travel to campus or other locations, and cheer on the Nittany Lions in a socially distant fashion to focus on the health and safety of the entire community.

While Penn State fans are typically known for their enthusiasm in taking to the road to watch the Nittany Lions, officials from the University and the community are reminding individuals that absolutely no tailgating will be permitted in or around the stadium or on campus, and travel to any of the Penn State campuses should not be planned. These requests are part of the continued effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, which is not yet under control in the U.S., nor in Pennsylvania. It has been the combined work across the University and its communities that has helped maintain in-person teaching, learning and research, including mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, avoidance of large gatherings, and increased hand hygiene. However, any travel by fans or students — to or from a campus — would detrimentally impact these ongoing efforts.

‘Our Community. Our Responsibility.’

“It will take a continued collective commitment to protect one another during these challenging times. Thanks to our students, faculty and staff; the enhanced safety protocols mandated by the Big Ten; and the strong partnerships across the University and its local communities, another football season can take place this fall,” said Penn State President Eric J. Barron. “While the Nittany Lions will play home games at Beaver Stadium without fans present, I know that our supporters will cheer the team on from a distance and take to heart the message: ‘Our Community. Our Responsibility,’ by making choices that protect the safety and health of our community.”

Barron emphasized that students, employees and Nittany Lion fans need to remain vigilant in following guidelines that urge them to avoid travel to different areas, not hold large gatherings, and cheer for Penn State football from home in support of the public health of the entire Happy Valley region. There are also efforts underway across the University to provide opportunities for the Penn State community to feel a part of football game days, including the ‘Virtual Valley Experience,’ introduced by Penn State Athletics.

“It is up to each and every one of us to take COVID-19 seriously and understand that our individual actions can and do have consequences that affect many,” said Dr. Nirmal Joshi, chief medical officer of Mount Nittany Health. “It's important to practice social distancing, even when outdoors. Follow masking protocols and wash your hands often — and carry hand sanitizer with you when you can’t easily access soap and water. The seriousness of this virus cannot be stressed enough, and it’s essential that we all do our part to keep our community safe.”

Additionally, as the CDC believes that influenza viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will have concurrent spread, getting a flu vaccine is another protection the community. Student flu vaccine clinics run through Nov. 10 at the University Park campus. Flu vaccines are free for all Penn State employees, regardless of participation in a University-sponsored health care plan. Employees can choose one of the three options for receiving the flu vaccine through late October.

Collective commitment

The University plans to work closely not only with health experts, but also with area law enforcement to support existing municipal ordinances that limit gatherings and require wearing a face mask.

“I’m sure most of us wish we could be physically together with our fellow alumni right now, especially since there is nothing like a Penn State game day to highlight our Penn State pride. I am confident, though, that Nittany Nation will roar just as loudly in our virtual festivities,” said Randy Houston, a 1991 alumnus and president of the Penn State Alumni Association. “I am excited to see the many creative ways Penn State football fans will find to stay connected and cheer on our Nittany Lions from home. Like all of you, I look forward to us being together again soon. There is no doubt we’ll be a force to be reckoned with!”

Vern Squier, president and CEO of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County, said individual behaviors matter greatly as we try to not only remain personally healthy, but also revive the economic health of our communities.

“I would simply ask fans and friends to join us in our efforts to keep our community safe, open and functional,” Squier said. “There are many ways to continue to support the team and our community while remaining socially distant.”

“The Borough of State College and surrounding areas have been diligently working with Penn State so that the return of fall Penn State athletics is done with public health as the top concern,” said Tom Fontaine, State College Borough manager. “This could not be done without a strong, collaborative and coordinated approach by both the University and the community. This pandemic continues to impact our community, and it will take everyone to have a shared responsibility in limiting the spread.”

Fontaine added, “Locally, the community has an ordinance in place to limit gathering sizes to no more than 10 people and require the wearing of face coverings. This ordinance is one of the many measures we’ve put in place to keep our community safe and healthy. In State College we are asking everyone to help us ‘Mask Up, State College.’”

Student and family support

The University will continue to work actively with student organizations and the student community to abide by existing limits on gatherings and in the deterrence of game-day visits to State College by friends, alumni and others. The University also will continue to partner closely with area law enforcement to support municipal ordinances that limit gatherings and require wearing a face mask.

“Dealing with a global pandemic this year has changed everyone’s life in so many ways. Mask wearing, social distancing, travel restrictions, Zoom meetings, and Zoom learning has put a strain on all of us,” said Mike Bulone, Penn State Parent’s Council chair. “But, thankfully, Penn State football is back. It makes sense to err on the side of being as safe as possible with some accommodations to protect everyone in the Penn State family. One of the biggest Penn State traditions, tailgating, will not be allowed this year. I understand the disappointment of some, but we also must appreciate the responsibility that Penn State has to students, alumni, athletes, and the entire community.”

As part of efforts by the University to promote positive outdoor activities that allow for camaraderie, at University Park, students will be invited to attend outdoor, socially distanced watch parties organized by Student Affairs in accordance with public health guidelines and the governor’s limitations.

‘Mask Up Or Pack Up’

To continue on-campus learning, work and other activities through the fall semester, it’s vital that students, faculty and staff at all campuses and in adjacent communities do their part to limit the spread of COVID-19 — and support the effort to “Mask Up or Pack Up.” The University urges everyone to continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and avoid gatherings.

For the latest updates and information on Penn State’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including frequently asked questions and information specific for students, faculty and staff, visit

Last Updated October 19, 2020