STATE COLLEGE – Christina Lambert and her family eagerly anticipated Penn State hockey’s March 14 the Big Ten tournament semifinal against Minnesota.
The longtime Nittany Lions’ family of fans never made it to the Pegula Ice Arena that evening, as Penn State, along with the NCAA, canceled all winter and spring sports for the remainder of the school year as part of the effort to combat the coronavirus outbreaks.
Athletics hasn’t just halted for athletes this spring. Those who closely follow them and their respective teams have also been left with a void.
“It was very sad because they worked so hard,” said Lambert, a Boalsburg resident. “I had friends coming from Philadelphia to join us in going to the game, and my son and daughter were both looking forward to going as a family.”
According to the 2019 data from the United States Census Bureau, 42,352 people reside in State College. Undergraduate and graduate students at Penn State’s University Park campus – located in State College – add another 46,723 to the area’s population. It's no secret State College revolves around the university and its athletic programs.
Penn State president Eric J. Barron two weeks ago implemented sweeping remote-learning protocols across the university system’s 24 campuses. Two days later, the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference and Penn State announced the cancellation of the winter and spring sports seasons.
The results are no March Madness for Penn State’s men’s basketball team, no NCAA wrestling national championship appearances for wrestlers, no chance to contend for a Big Ten and national crown for the No. 2-ranked men’s lacrosse team and no spring football practices or Blue-White football scrimmage.
“We were very excited to see how well they were doing,” Lambert said of Penn State’s basketball season. “My husband and son went to a lot of latter games and were very sad that they didn’t get to finalize their season.”
Margie and Vince Dadamo are State College residents and Penn State ticket holders for football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey. While the Dadamos hold their love and fandom for the Nittany Lions in high regard, the safety and well-being of fellow residents of the commonwealth are of paramount importance during these times.
“This is a pandemic, something we've never experienced,” Margie Dadamo said. “Living in State College, we've felt the effects more of Penn State shutting down than others who don't live here. Although it's left a void in our day-to-day lives, we completely agree with the administration's decision to close until further notice.”
Like Lambert, Mifflinburg resident Robert Laubach has used the abrupt end of Penn State’s sports seasons to attend to household tasks and prepare for the upcoming trout season. As president of the R.B. Winter chapter of Trout Unlimited, unfurling a fishing line into lakes and streams has brought him as much joy as watching Penn State sports.
Laubach's wife, Jan, has undergone cancer surgery and is currently taking chemotherapy medication which has resulted in a susceptible immune system. Health officials' coronavirus precautionary suggestions resonate with the couple.
“I’m kind of confident in the house right now,” Laubach said. “We’re really laying low.”
While Laubach delights in watching Penn State’s athletic teams compete, he said he agrees with the school’s and the NCAA’s decision to cancel the winter and sports seasons as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus.
“With Trout Unlimited, we had several activities planned, and we had to make some rather large decisions on what we were doing,” Robert Laubach said. “At this time, it’s best to err on the side of safety, so we pretty much canceled all of our activities. Seeing how this thing is exploding in some places, I don’t think they had any choice but to cancel sports and get people out of the bigger crowds and stuff like that. I think it was the wise thing to do.”
Much like the affected athletes, Penn State and college sports fans around the country will find other ways to occupy their time this fall. As many have been quarantined inside their homes during the outbreak, finding another outlet to do so won’t be easy. For Lambert, nature walks at State College’s Tom Tudek Memorial Park have helped to fill the current sports void.
“Coming to grips has been difficult for us as a family because we attend so many Penn State functions,” Lambert said. “Knowing that the Blue-White Game was canceled, we just knew that was the final nail on the head. I’ll probably try to find some things to fill my time. I have a lot of house projects that I’m planning on getting to; enjoy the weather while it’s nice to get out. Nice walks and hikes. Just a lot of house projects that I’ve been wanting to get to, and now I finally have the time to do that.”