MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Last season’s opener against Eastern Kentucky? Only 976 fans were allowed in Milan Puskar Stadium.
This season? Maryland Stadium will be filled to the brim with fans. The University of Maryland athletic department announced that the allotted 10,000 student ticket maximum was exceeded by one thousand, if that’s any indication of renewed crowd anticipation.
Temporary bleachers will be constructed to fit the additional fans. It’s only the third time the football team has ever over-sold its student seating. The first time? A 2007 game against a then-ranked No. 4 Mountaineer team. West Virginia was victorious that game, smashing the Terrapins 31-14.
This season, it will be different, especially for the underclassmen who started 2020 with a stadium filled only with player and staff family.
“That’s something that was lost last year,” WVU head coach Neal Brown said. “We played several freshmen a year ago. We played our first game with nobody here against Eastern Kentucky, so they were maybe able to get into the flow of… maybe there weren’t as many nerves as there normally would have been.”
That’s all set to change tomorrow in College Park, Md. For sophomore center Zach Frazier, this will be his first college football game with the potential for full capacity seating. As of Thursday, 39,000 tickets have been distributed for a 54,000-seat Maryland Stadium; 11,000 of those will be students. For the Terps’ fanbase, this game marks the first football game open to the public since 2019, and the athletic department is encouraging Maryland fans to dress for a White Out.
For WVU, last season’s largest crowd was in Austin, TX, when the Mountaineers and Longhorns clashed in front of just shy of 18,000 fans during Week 7. Brown is interested to see the response from this new group of freshmen, who missed out on the obscurity of playing for an empty stadium.
“It’s going to be different for the Wyatt Milums, the Kaden Prathers, just thinking on offense, that their first college football experience is going to be quite a bit different than Zach Frazier’s was last year playing against an empty stadium for Eastern Kentucky,” Brown said.
Back in June, West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons announced that all WVU Football games played at Milan Puskar Stadium would be back up to 100 percent capacity.
“I want to thank our fans for their patience and understanding throughout the past year,” Lyons said. “Not only is this great news for Mountaineer Nation and our student-athletes, but it adds to the excitement and anticipation for Mountaineer football. A full stadium of 60,000 fans is exactly what our team deserves, and what our fans have been wanting.
“I also want to thank our university, local and state officials for their work throughout the past year. We certainly have been in good hands with their advice and leadership,” Lyons added. “I can’t wait for this fall to again see the rows of tailgaters, experience the thrill of the Mantrip, and the roar of a packed stadium singing ‘Country Roads’.”
In College Park, the University of Maryland started an initiative which incentivizes faculty and staff to get vaccinated by offering two free tickets to a home game of their choosing this fall. West Virginia University started a similar incentive program, offering, among a laundry list of other options, guaranteed football or basketball student season tickets to students and employees who had verified vaccination records by Aug. 1.