MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Milan Puskar Stadium is always rocking on game day with the raucous Mountaineer faithful but things are going to be a little different on Sept. 12.
The stadium will be mere empty.
Last week the West Virginia football program announced that the season-opener against Western Kentucky will be played in front of an empty stadium.
Only family members and essential football staff will be on-hand.
“I’m disappointed we’re not going to have fans,” head coach Neal Brown said. “I’m probably more disappointed for our fans than I am our players. Our players will be fine. They’ll get up. They’re going to be excited to play. Would they like to play in front of fans and a full stadium? Absolutely. I really feel for our fans because they look forward to it.
“We have one of the best fan bases in the entire country so I really feel for our fans but I understand the situation, I do. I’m hopeful by our second game, we play Baylor here, I am hopeful that we can get fans. I don’t know what the percentage looks like but I’m hopeful we can. I don’t have any inside knowledge that we will but I’m hopeful.”
Knowing they will be playing without fans for at least one game, if not more, is something Brown is trying to prepare his team for.
Instead of simulated crowd noise during practice and scrimmages, the Mountaineers are practicing without noise to prepare for the new norm.
The coaches will have to make adjustments in how they communicate with their players so the other team doesn’t hear.
“We’ve got multiple ways to signal and we’ve for multiple ways to call plays to the quarterback to communicate but it is something you’ve got to think about and from a coaching perspective, you need to watch what you say,” Brown said. “We talked about this in our staff meeting. You have to watch what you say because everything’s is gonna be heard.”
While everyone must adjust to the new changes and a packed stadium is ideal. Professional teams are faring just fine in their bubble atmosphere. It is proving to be a safe and effective life.
“Some of the best athletes in the world don’t have a problem competing at the elite level with no fans,” Brown said. “If Lebron James can play in front of no fans then I think all the Mountaineers can line up and execute and be excited about playing.”