When it seemed that it was hanging in the balance over the last several months, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee led the charge to advocate for a football season this fall — even if he would have had to suit up for it.
Gee’s wish for a football season is slated to come true on Sept. 12, about three and a half weeks after WVU’s academic calendar began. As the opener draws closer, the president is keeping the same enthusiasm he showed in May.
“All 5-6, 150 pounds of me, I’ve got my ankles taped. I’m ready to play as a matter of fact,” Gee said.
As president of WVU, Gee took part in the Big 12’s discussions over the summer — and supporting the prospect of a 2020 season was a no-brainer for him.
“Football itself, particularly West Virginia University football, is a spiritual event,” Gee said. “By that, I mean that the hopes and dreams of this state rest in many ways on this University…and our football program really represents a lot of the dreams that we hope that people will have and that we can aspire to.”
Gee says that all administrative decisions are made with student health and safety as the top priority, and notes that it can be difficult with the ever-changing pandemic. Now in the “dance phase” of the pandemic, as he calls it, Gee says the University is ready to change its course (like switching from a “foxtrot” to a “waltz”) if need be.
The best-case scenario for Gee is simple: get through the semester successfully, have a good football season and win a national championship. To make sure this happens, WVU has mandated strict protocols, ranging from facemask and social distancing requirements on campus to a phased campus return. Gee is even getting involved by carrying around his own bull horn to chide mask-less students.
“The world we’re in right now…it’s a world of being kind to each other, and kindness is wearing your mask, and washing your hands and doing your social distancing,” he explained. “Just follow the protocols.”
As the prospect of fans in the stands is still alive right now, student-athletes on WVU’s football team have been vocal on social media about following those protocols. Gee advocates for this type of action and says he hopes more students and student-athletes take a similar stand.
“I think our [student-athletes] are all very cognizant of this and are working very hard to take a leadership role….We’re all in this together, and what you do as a student on the porch with 500 people and no one being masked has a direct impact on what I do as an individual,” Gee said. “I think it’s that constructive relationship that will help us to get through this.”