With many things remaining up in the air for the future of fall sports, experts are suggesting possible modifications to the 2020 football season all the way to the cancellation of the season.
Previously, WVU President Dr. Gordon Gee said at this point no one knows what the future holds for football and all fall sports. However, whatever the decision may be, it will have to made across all conferences and students must be back taking classes.
“I think the one issue we are going to have to look at is we are going to have to do that all together, by that I mean the Power 5, NCAA, we can’t have one league playing and one not playing,” Gee said. “My hope is the fact that we will be able to play. We will probably have to do that in some limitations. Maybe at our stadium, we give everybody masks. I have no idea what we are going to do. Athletics have to be safe … but I do know it has an emotional and spiritual center for so many people, including our students, so we need to think about it that way.”
On Thursday, Gee followed that up with an even more optimistic answer during an interview on Charleston-Huntington CBS affiliate WOWK’s “Opening West Virginia Special” that there will be football this fall.
“We are going to play football in the fall. I really do believe that, even if I have to suit up,” Gee said. “I’ve got my ankles taped up — I am ready to go in.”
He then referred back to the importance and fan and player safety.
“I think that with everything, we’re going to do it based on what is safe,” he continued. “What is healthy for our fans, what is healthy for our student-athletes, but I do believe we are going to play football.”
Head Coach Neal Brown echoed Gee’s optimism that there will be football this fall.
“I continue to be cautiously optimistic about playing football this fall,” Brown said on a video conference. “I think the state of West Virginia, led by Clay Marsh, has done a really good in (planning) our reopening. We are waiting on the Big 12 conference under the commission of Bob Bowlsby, he has been a leader throughout this whole pandemic, and the football oversight committee, which we are fortunate our Athletic Director Shane Lyons leads.”
In a video conference last week, West Virginia University athletic director Shane Lyons also expressed his optimism that WVU football will proceed as scheduled.
Lyons said the goal is for the season to start on Aug. 29, and Sept. 5 for the Mountaineers.
“I think our focus right now really both from the conference as well as the football oversight of the NCAA is the return to practice,” Lyons continued. “What does that look like? What protocols do we need to put in place that meet the local, state and federal guidelines on testing? The first step we were taking is how long is that time period going to be? I think we are looking at anywhere four to six weeks before the first competition that we have to have the athletes be able to be back on campus and be able to train.”
Lyons said the next step would be what does the season look like? Games like normal? Conference games only? An interrupted season with half of the games in the fall and half next spring.
“All those things are in discussion,” Lyons said. “Our focus right now is starting on time.”
Other options being thrown around across the sports world is games with no fans, a postponed season after the completion of a vaccine or no 2020 season at all.
No matter the decision, Brown said he and his staff have been preparing for the return of their players.
“Whenever we get the go ahead, we will be ready. … Our whole athletic department and coaching staff have been preparing for that so we will be ready,” Brown said. “I know the Big 12 Conference is working with a group from the University of DICON so we will have procedures and guidelines in place for that return whenever that is.”
As of right now, the Big 12 conference has extended its suspension of all team competitions and practices through May 31. Brown said a next step decision will probably be made closer to that date to have as much information as possible.