As a former football player and current fan, there’s nothing I would like more than for things to return to normal so we can enjoy the season like usual. But with that being said, having an abundance of fans in the stadium is not what’s best right now.
Now before you get angry and tell me I’m wrong, hear me out first. WKU Football is set to open its season on Sept. 12 against an in-state opponent, the University of Louisville. The Cardinals announced last week that they are allowing 30% capacity in their stadium, which is about 18,000 fans.
Does that sound safe at all? I know Houchens-Smith Stadium is nowhere near the maximum capacity as the formerly known Papa John’s Stadium, as WKU’s stadium only holds about 22,000 fans. But that doesn’t even account for all of the students who squeeze into the student section.
High school sports have returned already, and there have been problems when it comes to making sure everybody is following the rules.
The athletic director at American Fork High School in Utah had to stop their football game due to fans not following the mask and social distancing requirements. Their tickets even gave them specific areas to sit so that distancing would be assured.
How can WKU ensure that people will stay socially distanced for a three hour game? How can they ensure fans will wear their mask? I just don’t see how that’s plausible especially in a college dominated state like Kentucky and a WKU “ride or die” city like Bowling Green that tailgates every weekend.
As someone who’s lived on campus for three years, I know students will tailgate and not do it safely, not to mention the Greek life scene’s parties.
I don’t mean to present an apples and oranges situation, but the NBA bubble is very successful right now partly because there are no fans. Up until this point, no player has tested positive for COVID-19, and they’re thriving.
We’ve seen multiple football programs across the nation have players get COVID-19. Oklahoma had to send a whole position group home because all of them except one were diagnosed with the virus.
WKU head coach Tyson Helton said the team has had multiple cases, some with symptoms and some asymptomatic. Putting fans in that environment is adding fuel to the fire.
WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart announced last Thursday afternoon that they plan to mirror a similar capacity as Louisville.
30% of 22,000 is 6,600, which is a lot. If high school games are having problems even with a lower number in attendance, how will colleges be able to handle it, especially since COVID-19 numbers have risen in Kentucky for the past couple of months?
In Lexington, the local health department reported 423 cases at the University of Kentucky since Aug. 3. All of this is before football games have started, so what makes us think the numbers will decline with thousands of people gathered in a stadium or outside tailgating?
Let’s not forget that these universities are trying to have in-person classes and stay open as long as possible. Bringing more bodies to these already stuffed campuses is just asking for the virus to come by and visit.
If throughout the season everything is going well and players are staying healthy, maybe the school can let some fans in. But until then it should be in the best interest of the athletes and the school to keep fans enjoying football games at home.