Penguin Preview: YSU Plans for Limited Attendance at Football Games

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Before the Youngstown State football team takes the field for its first spring season, the university needs to determine if any fans can attend their games.

The YSU athletic department did just that when athletic director Ron Strollo met with the Youngstown City Health District on Thursday.

According to Erin Bishop, health commissioner for the Youngstown City Health District, she recommended a capacity between 15-20%, or a maximum of about 4,000 fans.

Bishop said the Ohio Department of Health will have the final say on attendance and will attend all home games to ensure protocols are followed.

YSU sports information director Trevor Parks said there is a meeting with the health department scheduled for Feb. 1 to review YSU’s proposed health policies and adjusted seating chart.

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The meeting came less than a week after the YSU men’s and women’s basketball teams announced that fans couldn’t attend conference games the rest of the season. The Horizon League, YSU’s conference for 16 of its 19 sports, announced that league games wouldn’t have fans on Jan. 8.

First-year head football coach Doug Phillips said he was in favor of limited attendance at the Penguins’ home games. But he added that the decision is out of his hands and is more focused on things he can control heading into the season.

YSU has continued to practice without pads and will work their way back into a normal preseason route starting Jan. 22. The fall and winter practices were more like walk-throughs than practices. After Jan. 22, the team will start to implement contact into practice.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference, which includes YSU, announced on Friday that 10 of the 11 teams will participate in an eight-game spring season. The only program that opted out was Indiana State.

The Penguins are scheduled to start the season at North Dakota State, the defending Football Championship Subdivision champions, on Feb. 21. But Strollo said the schedule will change.

YSU’s schedule still needs to add one game, but as of Monday morning, the home games will include Southern Illinois on March 6, Northern Iowa on March 27 and conference newcomer North Dakota on April 10. 

After North Dakota State, the Penguins’ three remaining road games will be South Dakota State on March 13, Western Illinois on April 3 and a season finale against Missouri State on April 17.

Strollo said the MVFC might have to “start from scratch” regarding its league schedule after Indiana State announced it would not play football this spring. Illinois State and South Dakota were the only MVFC opponents not on YSU’s original schedule that could fill in for the eight game. He expects South Dakota to fill replace Indiana State at home.

“Still expect by the end of the week or even by Wednesday, a schedule that has four home games and four road games,” Strollo said.

The Business Journal’s annual Penguin Preview in our MidFebruary edition will have stories leading up to the start of the YSU football season. The first stories are scheduled to be published prior to the season opener against NDSU.

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