(Photo: Ben Queen, USA Today)
Morgantown, West Virginia – On September 21, West Virginia University Director of Athletics Shane Lyons announced that there will be no spectators allowed in Milan Puskar Stadium for the Mountaineers’ next home game against Baylor on Saturday, October 3rd.
On September 21, Monongalia County was in RED on the COVID county-by-county map. Today, September 27 – six days before the Baylor game – Monongalia County is now GREEN on the map.
In Lyons’ press release announcing no spectators for the Baylor game, he said the following: “I understand it’s a disappointing decision but it’s the correct one. We have to do what’s best for the safety of the University and our local community. Our plans for a socially distanced seating manifest in the stadium have been ready for some time, but we need conditions to improve on campus and in the community before we can proceed.”
Conditions have certainly improved both on the West Virginia University campus and in the surrounding community. It’s also foolish and pointless to allow students to return to small, indoor classrooms but not allow at least 25% attendance at a large, outdoor venue.
If indeed Lyons’ “socially distanced seating manifest in the stadium” has been ready for some time, what exactly is standing in the way of West Virginia University allowing fans in the stands for the upcoming game?
The Mountaineers, 1-1 and 0-1 in the Big 12 Conference, will absolutely need fans in the stands against the Baylor Bears. Baylor is coming off an impressive debut for new head coach Dave Aranda, easily handling the Kansas Jayhawks at home 47-14. While Baylor had low expectations for this season, they are always a tough team to beat and certainly not an automatic win by any means for the Mountaineers.
Lyons added in his press release: “I continue to ask Mountaineer Nation for its understanding. We are doing everything possible to have fans at our home football games this season, and I can assure you that our players, coaches and department staff want that to happen.”
Although Lyons claimed to be doing “everything possible” to have spectators at Milan Puskar Stadium, what is stopping him from allowing fans six days from now? What measures what need to be taken to make this happen? Every other school in the Big 12 Conference is allowing at least some spectators for their home games, so why is West Virginia University once again behind the rest of the league?
Shane Lyons, Gordon Gee, West Virginia University, I implore you…make the reasonable, rational decision and allow fans in the stands for West Virginia’s next home game against Baylor.