Morgantown, West Virginia – When the Mountaineers open their Big 12 Conference schedule tonight against the Iowa State Cyclones, they should be playing in front of thousands of fans decked out in gold and blue.
Instead, West Virginia players’ sneakers squeaking and Bob Huggins yelling at referees will be the only things heard within the Coliseum tonight.
On December 1st, West Virginia University decided that there would be no spectators in the Coliseum for the entire month of December. In a statement released by the university, West Virginia Director of Athletics Shane Lyons said the following: “To say that we are disappointed is quite an understatement, but the decision not to allow spectators in December is the correct one at this time for the safety of our fans, staff and student-athletes.
The COVID-19 pandemic keeps presenting many challenges, but like I have said in the past, we need to continue being aggressive in taking appropriate safety precautions of wearing masks and getting tested so that we can end this pandemic.”
The West Virginia Mountaineers – currently 6-1 and ranked #8 in the nation – are one of the most exciting, promising teams that Bob Huggins has had in years, and his frustrating at not allowing fans to watch his team in person is obvious.
“We have 14,000 seats in the Coliseum. It’s beautiful. New scoreboard…the same scoreboard that you have in Madison Square Garden and this place doesn’t look 50 years old anymore. It looks new and vibrant. It’s missing one thing. It’s missing people in the seats. There are 14,000 seats, and we can’t put 3,000 in here and spread them out?”
Huggins has a point. The Coliseum is a massive arena and 3,000 people can easily socially distance safely while watching the games. While it would take an organized effort to accomplish it, it’s certainly something that could be done without risking the health of anyone in attendance.College sports are not the same without fans and a home court advantage is non-existent without the support of the home crowd.
According to Huggins, it really does affect the players as well. “This is such a sterile atmosphere. It’s not what they (players) signed up for, to be honest with you. It’s not what they signed up for. I don’t get it. I don’t get it because it’s about the guys that are playing.”
Perhaps Huggins’ pleas to allow fans will convince the university to change their stance in the near future. West Virginia’s opponent tonight – a poor 1-3 Iowa State team – should not present any real challenge, with or without fans, but the Mountaineers will need fans in the stands when they play tough Big 12 opponents like Kansas, Baylor and Texas Tech.
If the Coliseum can’t be packed, at least allow 3-5,000 fans to spread out and enjoy at home game in person. Although the Coliseum wouldn’t be electric like it typically is, the environment would certainly be better and West Virginia’s odds of beating tough opponents would increase greatly.