WKU Football takes precautions to kickoff season COVID-free

Athletic Director Todd Stewart and football head coach Tyson Helton stand on the sideline at practice, Aug. 17, 2020

Nick Kieser

Patience is a virtue that WKU Athletics Director Todd Stewart has used in the past weeks leading up to the football season and other fall competitions on The Hill.

Stewart and WKU have been following the guidelines of experts. Doing so has allowed the football program to safely return and prepare for the ensuing season, which is now in the T-minus stages, Stewart said.

Following the decisions of other conferences is something Stewart said that Conference USA has been doing. 

“Everyone’s footprint is within the Big-12, SEC or the ACC,” Stewart said. “From our standpoint as long as those leagues were still in, that made us feel better about ourselves.”

Lady Topper soccer and volleyball is being pushed to the spring, but tennis and men’s and women’s golf will have their normal schedule like previous years.

“There was certainly some disappointment because I think they were ready to play,” Stewart said. “That’s helped a little bit from the standpoint that they still plan on having a season in the spring. It’s not like they won’t have a season — they’ll just have it at a different time period than they normally would.” 

Exhibition games are still not out of the question for volleyball and soccer, according to Stewart. Baseball and softball may also participate in exhibition games this fall.

After not postponing the 2020 football season and listening to the proper guidelines, the Hilltoppers will have a season — along with more testing to ensure the health of the athletes.

“Once we get into game weeks we’re likely to be testing three times a week,” Stewart said. “For somebody to be able to play on a Saturday they would have to have a negative test result on all three of those tests.”

He added that WKU would like to be as thorough as possible to help make fall games happen and have healthy athletes.

Capacity is something that Stewart touched on in regards to hosting Liberty University Sept. 19 for the first home season COVID-free football game of the year.

“We don’t have anything finalized yet, but I think it would be safe to say that for the Liberty game, whatever our fan situation is, will probably mirror what it is for the Louisville game,” Stewart said.

A byproduct of the reduced capacity limit is the loss in the projected budget for this year. The forecast has WKU Athletics adjusting accordingly to have the proper budget in place to run operations.

“We will have some budget shortfalls just because of the situation with fans in the stands,” Stewart said. “There are some decisions that we’ll have to make. The degree of that will depend on what the 2020-21 season looks like, not only for football but for everything else. We’re going to plan for the worst, and as a result we’ll have to make some decisions here in the weeks and months ahead.”

Before the first coin toss of the season, the players who take the field must be conscientious of the guidelines in place when on campus. Practicing what Healthy on The Hill says along with wearing a mask can assist athletes to maintain the proper condition in order to play.

“Classes here are either online or they are hybrid, so there are not crowded areas from a classroom perspective on our campus,” Stewart said. “Our university has taken a lot of precautions to try to get off to a good start here, and what we are telling our guys is ‘don’t let your guard down’ — they have done a really good job so far, and I think from their standpoint there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sports Editor Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected] Follow Nick on Twitter at @KieserNick.