In the season opener against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, West Virginia was one of only a few football programs in the country not playing in front of the general public.
While athletic director Shane Lyons announced in August that Milan Puskar Stadium would remain empty to begin the 2020 season, the rest of the Big 12 pushed forward on fan attendance.
“We are disappointed that we will not be able to allow fans to attend the Sept. 12 home game, but we are working diligently to open our gates for Big 12 Conference play,” Lyons said in a statement in August. “It is our goal to have fans at Milan Puskar Stadium this season, but right now, that is not possible for the EKU game.”
Iowa State initially planned to allow 25,000 season ticket holders at the season opener against Louisiana University, but the athletic department quickly reversed the decision at the beginning of September and did not allow the general public to attend.
The University of Kansas also announced in late August that fans would not be allowed to attend the home opener against Coastal Carolina.
Prior to Saturday’s game, head coach Neal Brown expressed the worth of fans in the stands and how it was going to be difficult playing in an empty stadium against Eastern Kentucky.
“I want to make sure that our fans know that we are going to miss them this Saturday,” Brown said. “In a season of a lot of different things, that is going to be the most difficult thing for our players to not play in front of our fans.”
The general public was not allowed in the stadium for West Virginia, but family members and close friends of the players for WVU and Eastern Kentucky were given access.
Starting quarterback Jarret Doege said he didn’t feel different playing in front of no fans and actually benefited from family members being the only people in attendance.
“I played in Bowling Green in the MACtion on Tuesdays, and it’s nothing new to me,” Doege said following the 56-10 victory over EKU. “I could hear my mom scream and I could even see her in the stands and I usually can’t find her, but there she was in the front row.”
Some schools like Oklahoma had difficulty keeping fans in check when it came to following safety protocols. The Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione said on Saturday following Oklahoma’s win over Missouri State that fans need to do better and set an example in following health protocols.
“Unfortunately, we had too many fans fall short of expectations, and our message to those individuals is simple: we need you to do better,” Castiglione said in a statement. “For the health and well-being of everyone involved, we’re trying to set that standard.”
West Virginia’s next opponent, Oklahoma State, plans to allow 15,000 fans in Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday in its first game against Tulsa. WVU has yet to announce a plan for the remaining home football games in 2020.