Penn State is still chasing their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff and has just one appearance in nine years of the Big Ten Championship Game’s existence, but there’s been plenty of fan happiness in Happy Valley since James Franklin arrived in 2016. This week, however, Penn State fans are not happy.
On Thursday, Penn State became the first Power Five school to announce there will be no fans at football games (and all other fall sporting events) this season, leaving Beaver Stadium, the second-largest stadium in college football, and its 106,572 seats empty for each of Penn State’s five home games. Athletics director Sandy Barbour said with that decision, along several other factors, including the cancellations of other Penn State events and reduction in media revenue, they are expecting financial losses “in the high eight figures,” which could become nine figures if there are no fall sports.
There is, however, one area where Penn State won’t lose a little money: football seat contributions. Season ticket-holders will be refunded the cost of the tickets for the 2020 season (or they can donate the money instead) but they won’t be refunded seat contributions, which acts as an annual private seat license and is paid each year for the right to purchase a ticket in that seat.
Seat contributions range from two to five figures across college football. At Penn State, they range from $100 to $2,000 and, after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was enacted in 2018, are not valid for a tax deduction. This year, however, it is valid for a tax deduction. Fans may retain their season tickets for 2021 but must pay the seat contribution for 2020 and 2021, as Barbour explained in a press release on Thursday.
“Charitable donations and non-charitable seat contributions are annually used to provide our student-athletes with scholarship opportunities and cannot be refunded per University policy as those scholarship allocations have been distributed for the upcoming year,” Barbour said. “We appreciate your understanding that as a Nittany Lion Club member, your annual support for our scholarships for student-athletes is the bedrock of our commitment to them.”
Some fans aren’t thrilled.
“If I take the option to rollover my season tickets, I still have to pay that fee in addition and I didn’t get the service or product for which I paid the fee in 2020,” Penn State alum and season ticket-holder Bill Cluck told Penn Live. “There are some that argue that’s fraud.”
Several schools have announced a full refund and 2021 rollover for season tickets and the seat contributions, including LSU and Michigan, but Penn State is believed to be the first Power Five school to refuse a seat contribution refund.
Andrew Doughty hosts the High Motor podcast and covers college football and college basketball for HERO Sports. A Kansas (B.S. Sport Management) and Memphis grad (M.A. Journalism), Andrew is also a Junior Writer for Sports Illustrated and has published work on SB Nation and Bleacher Report.