WKU planning patriotic home opener against Navy

Cole Claybourn

Fans are encouraged to arrive at football games early each week, but on Saturday they might want to make an extra effort to do so.

With Navy visiting Smith Stadium a day before the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, several patriotic events are scheduled to take place prior to kickoff.

“It’s the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 and we wanted to do something to honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to serve and continue to lose their lives,” said Lindsay Thomas, assistant athletic director for marketing and ticket sales. “We couldn’t have had a better team play us for a home opener to celebrate people that serve our country.”

Fans are asked to bring comfort items to be sent to troops serving in Afghanistan and will be given an American flag when they enter the stadium.

About 20 minutes prior to kickoff there will be a moment of silence followed by the Navy’s Drum and Bugle Corps playing taps.

That will be followed by the National Anthem and the induction of WKU’s ROTC Cadets.

Next, a two-helicopter flyover is scheduled for just before 6 p.m. 

Corey Fogle, a 2001 graduate and former WKU football player, now a member of the Navy, will fly one of the helicopters. The other will be piloted by a Navy graduate.

The WKU band will then play a 10-minute patriotic themed show at halftime, featuring five songs, including a medley of the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force theme songs.

“Having Navy as an opponent…I think is a fitting backdrop to the emotion of that 10th anniversary,” President Gary Ransdell said.

Army Lt. Col. Scott Walker, a 1990 graduate of WKU and three-year letterman on the football team, will serve as an honorary captain.

Senior Associate Athletic Director Todd Stewart said 500 midshipmen will be in attendance, along with 800 other Navy fans. 

Wounded Warriors from Fort Knox and Fort Campbell will also be at the game and will be recognized during the game.

“You could make a compelling argument that the overall atmosphere, with everything, will be the best we’ve ever had for a home game,” Stewart said. “We always say ‘arrive early,’ but I think in particular for this game, you really want to be in your seats shortly after 5:30 because a lot of the unique things are happening before the game. 

“People would really feel like they missed out if they heard about it and could have been here to see it.”

Stewart said tickets are “moving” for Saturday’s game, but added that plenty of seats will be available on Saturday for those who still want to attend.

He said Saturday has the potential to be a “historic” day for WKU football.

“We obviously have the utmost respect for the Naval Academy and the sacrifice that all of them go through and what they do for our country,” he said. “But on Saturday at 6 o’clock we need to win that football game. If we’re able to do that, it would be a landmark win for our program.”