As the West Virginia Mountaineers toppled the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky at home this past weekend in their season opener, they had the dubious distinction of the only football game in town.
After all, due to COVID-19 concerns, University High School and Morgantown High School have yet to be able to start their fall football seasons. And Trinity Christian School, which was set to play its season opener Sept. 3, was informed that Wirt County would be forfeiting the game, rather than play in Monongalia County, which was then in the “orange” category of Gov. Jim Justice’s school re-entry metric, but is now in the “red.”
The Warriors have also yet to play a game this season.
Where things get funky, it’s not unfounded when pointing fingers, to say the county wasn’t trending “red” until the university, who, to their credit, decided against allowing fans at its first home game, had students come back for the fall semester Aug. 19. Capacities for the Mountaineers’ remaining home games are expected to be announced in the future.
Shortly after opening the bars, Justice once again shut them down in Monongalia County on Sept. 2 as pictures of young people packed in long lines to enter the establishments surfaced online.
Then, on Sept. 8, the university announced the Morgantown campus would be going online, until at least Sept. 25 in response to “a recent increase in positive cases among students and a concern that cases may increase even more following reports of parties over the holiday weekend where groups should have been in quarantine.”
So, why is it safe to hold a college game in a “red” county in the state, but not safe to hold a high school game, or to even hold in-person classes, for that matter? Or is it not about safety at all?
It might just be a simple matter of economics. It’s a hard truth but a truth nonetheless, athletic budgets are quite large, economically impactful and rely heavily on football to generate their enormous revenues.
In June of last year, WVU athletics director Shane Lyons released a study that showed the university’s athletics program has an annual economic impact of $302.7 million on the state, $78.8 million on Monongalia County and generates $18.6 million in tax revenue.
In 2017, WVU football pulled in $8.18 million to Monongalia on a per-game basis.
Sorry, but your sons’ and daughters’ concessions sales don’t make enough people enough money to risk it.
Whatever the reason, the we’re different than you attitude may just stem from the top, judging by the actions of those in charge at the university. A lot of time and effort has been put into trying to convince and admonish students, people in general, to be cautious, safe and respectful; yet, on Sunday, West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee was pictured at a CVS with mask in hand.
Gee took to Twitter to say he must hold himself to the highest standards and, in that instance, he had not done so.