The shift to online learning at WVU and Monongalia County’s orange designation on the state’s county alert map were major factors in the decision to restrict fan attendance at West Virginia’s next home football game, according to an athletic department administrator.
Matt Wells, WVU’s senior associate athletic director, said the athletic department and local health officials determined that based on the county’s current coronavirus data, it would not be safe for fans to attend West Virginia’s Big 12 home game against Baylor on Oct. 3.
“While it’s disappointing, and maybe even more disappointing than it was for the home opener to have the Big 12 Conference home opener played without fans, it is the right decision based upon those factors,” Wells said. “All we can do is continue to monitor the data and let science lead us down the right path.”
WVU announced its attendance restrictions for the Baylor game Monday. That policy aligns with the protocol for the football team’s Sept. 12 home opener against Eastern Kentucky. Only essential personnel and family of players and staff members will permitted inside Milan Puskar Stadium for the next home game.
“I understand it’s a disappointing decision, but it’s the correct one,” WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons said in a statement. “We have to do what’s best for the safety of the University and our local community.”
Coronavirus numbers in Monongalia County have trended downward in the last week. The county, which had 28 cases per 100,000 a week ago, moved from red to orange Friday and averaged just over 19 cases per 100,000 as of Sunday. Wells said the state’s County Alert System — which tracks COVID-19 throughout West Virginia and determines if high schools can hold in-person classes and compete in sports, among other things — is “one of the key metrics we’ve been monitoring.”
But while the number of cases in Monongalia County has decreased, Wells said case numbers must continue to trend downward before WVU will allow partial capacity attendance for future home games.
Wells added that WVU made this announcement roughly two weeks in advance for planning purposes, and he expects the athletic department to follow a similar timeline for the next Big 12 home game Oct. 17 against Kansas.
“As you saw for the Eastern Kentucky game, about two weeks is kind of that drop dead date so to speak for making that decision to allow fans to have an opportunity to plan to attend, and our staff to have an opportunity to turn it around appropriately from an operational standpoint,” Wells said.
Online course delivery for undergraduate students at WVU will continue until Friday. Additionally, high school sports teams in Monongalia County are still not permitted to play games under the orange designation.
Watch an extended interview with Wells this weekend on a new edition of The Neal Brown Show. Check your local listings for details.