While professional sports leagues both domestic and abroad scramble to figure out the resuming of their own seasons, leaders in college athletics find themselves attempting to answer the same questions as the fall sports season approaches.
West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee joined WOWK’s Opening West Virginia town hall on Wednesday evening after expressing his belief that classes would resume in Morgantown this fall. Of course, along with that, questions have swirled around whether or not college football would also begin as planned, about which Gee is equally sanguine.
“We are going to play football in the fall, I really do believe that,” Gee told WOWK’s Mark Curtis. “Even if I have to suit up, and I’ve got my ankles taped, I’m ready to go in.”
Even though the regular season officially kicks off at the end of August, preparations for competition are slated to begin at the end of June. The Big 12’s current suspension of all team activities will last until May 31, at which point the conference will assess its next move.
WVU football coach Neal Brown has praised this wariness while remaining “cautiously optimistic” for the start of the season.
“I think the powers that are making those decisions, in our case the Big 12 Conference [and] the Football Oversight Committee, I think they’re being prudent and I think it’s the right thing to do,” Brown said in a press conference on Wednesday morning. “I’m not in that decision-making role, but if I was in that decision-making role I’d be waiting as long as possible to make decisions.”
As that May 31 date approaches, it is difficult to predict to what degree the country will be open, as well as at what stage the pandemic will be. For that reason, Brown says he believes that the “powers that be” will maintain their decision-making prudence until they have as much information as possible.
There is significant motivation to get the football season started on time, however, especially given the projected $5 million shortfall that will hit the University’s athletic department. As noted by Athletic Director Shane Lyons, that shortfall could be drastically larger if the season is cancelled or significantly altered.
On top of that, Gee, a member of the College Football Playoff Board of Managers, says having sports will simply help the country get back into a hopeful mentality.
“I’ll just say it from another point of view, I think that this country needs to move from being shut down to having an ability to be able to get back into hope and opportunity,” he said, “and certainly, athletics provides great hope and great synergy to people.”
If the season does start on time, it will likely look different than what fans are used to. This is to make sure that college football is as safe as possible for everyone involved.
“Again, I think that with everything, we’re going to do it based upon what is safe, what is healthy for our fans, what is healthy for our student-athletes but I do believe that we will play football,” Gee said.
You can watch the full Opening West Virginia town hall on WOWKTV.com by clicking here.