College athletics are beginning to slowly make their return as the clock marks 100 days until the beginning of the West Virginia football season, but the uncertainty around the future has forced university officials to prepare for the event of reduced capacity — or even empty — stadiums.
While it is difficult to predict even the near future, things are looking up for college football fans regarding the reopening of sports, especially now that college football teams are setting dates to return to campus.
“There are a lot of positives with the recent announcements of the dates for the resumption of voluntary team activities,” said Matt Wells, WVU’s Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs. “Obviously you can’t have a game and you can’t have fans return to venues without student-athletes returning to campus and returning to workouts, and eventually returning to practice. So I do think that was a huge first step and a very positive sign for the possibilities for football.”
Wells currently oversees the Mountaineer Ticket Office, which has extended its deadline for priority season ticket requests until June 1. This was done to allow more information to come out regarding the COVID-19 pandemic so both fans and officials could better prepare for a football season.
Still, Wells says fans have a lot of questions regarding the future of football, from what the sport itself will look like to how many people will be allowed in the stadium.
“Unfortunately, we don’t know those answers yet, it’s something we’re continuing to work very closely with campus and also local leadership on that, and obviously going to follow the lead of the medical professionals,” he said. “What we would encourage fans to think about, is at some point if there is a reduced capacity, we’re going to take care of season ticket holders first.”
Because of that, Wells says fans’ best bet at an opportunity to go to a Mountaineer game this year is by holding season tickets.
This issue is not unique to West Virginia. Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard announced that the Cyclones’ Jack Trice Stadium will only be filled to 50 percent capacity in the upcoming season, or 30,000 spectators. Since 22,000 season tickets have already been renewed, that leaves just 8,000 spots for Cyclone fans to fill.
However, as Wells notes, this problem does not exactly have a one-size-fits-all solution.
“We’re absolutely paying attention to what is going on [at] other campuses, other conferences, other leagues in the pro ranks,” Wells said. “But at the same time, this is what I think makes this such a complicated situation. It’s still very much a local decision based upon what’s going on in your city, your county, your state. So we’re trying to find that balance of following best practices and seeing what others are doing but at the same time continuing to rely upon the local experts…to make the best decision with the best information possible.”
In the meantime, Wells says the best way for fans to make sure they can be in Milan Puskar Stadium for a West Virginia football game is to put in a request for season tickets by the current June 1 deadline.
“We will work with fans if we are not able to accommodate them and they have purchased their season tickets,” Wells said. “We will work with them on the appropriate makegood, whether that be a credit, a refund, etc. So I think there’s a little bit of insurance with making that commitment to purchase your season tickets as well.”