What if the Mountaineers played a football game and nobody came?
Well, that is not exactly the scenario for WVU’s first game in what is expected to be a most peculiar season. However, Athletic Director Shane Lyons has announced that fans will not be allowed to attend the September 12 game against Eastern Kentucky at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Lyons explained that the fan shutdown is a safety precaution because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our primary collective University focus right now is on the start of classes and the safe return of our students to our WVU campuses,” Lyons said.
Sure, the decision will disappoint thousands of fans, but did the University have a choice?
Consider that WVU has put in place a series of steps to try to limit the spread of the virus. In-person instruction is largely limited to freshmen and graduate students. The school encourages students and staff to do their part by wearing masks and social distancing.
The University has an aggressive testing program in place. As of yesterday, over 15,000 students and nearly 4,000 faculty and staff had been tested. So far, the overall positive rate is just one-half of one percent.
In addition, WVU is cracking down on large student parties, even if they are off campus. WVU Dean of Students Corey Farris said this week on Talkline after a weekend party at a dissociated fraternity that student punishment could include suspension or expulsion.
Now, what would a home football game look like?
Even with limited ticket sales the stadium would likely still have 15,000 to 20,000 people in the stands for Eastern Kentucky. They would be cheering, yelling, going to concession stands and using the bathrooms.
Also, fans would be tailgating. The University could ask for fans to limit pre-game parties or open the parking lots later, but social gatherings are going to happen.
So, how can the University, in good conscience, punish students for ignoring safety guidelines, but then allow or even encourage unsafe behavior by trying to have a somewhat normal football Saturday?
The answer is it cannot, and Lyons and WVU President E. Gordon Gee know that, even if they wish it were otherwise.
Maybe things will be better by the second home game October 3 against Baylor. The University’s statement said the seating plan for that game “will be announced in the future and determined by local public health conditions at the time.”
A WVU football game at Milan Puskar Stadium without the raucous Mountaineer fans will be something quite out of the ordinary… just like everything else during this pandemic.