If you’re near a piece of wood, do Matt Wells a favor.
Knock on it for him. And keep doing so until the start of the WVU football season.
The reason: The senior associate athletics director for external affairs, his boss Shane Lyons and staff are planning to go full bore when the Mountaineers’ home schedule begins Sept. 11 against those land Sharks from Long Island University.
“We’re pretty much following our normal plan and timeline for football season ticket sales,” Wells said Tuesday afternoon. “We’re planning to return to normal for the fall – with the caveat that should circumstances create a need to alter that plan we’ll communicate that once we know. If that would be the case then, same as 2020, our MAC members and previous season football ticket holders would have priority on available tickets.
“We are hopeful though, as things continue to improve and as the summer progresses, we’ll be able to approach this as a pre-Covid season from a capacity standpoint.”
Wells’ knuckles have to be raw knocking on wood after 2020. The pandemic was a drag on almost every business, but especially one as large as WVU athletics.
“I think it will be important to have a rebound year – especially from a revenue generation standpoint,” Wells said. “We’re talking ticket sales, donations, sponsorships, conference distribution and the associated TV money. It’s an important year. We’re certainly planning for and hopeful of a return to normal.”
Wells said the WVU department isn’t setting a date to make a final call.
“We’re going to plan like it’s going to return [to normal] unless and until the circumstances dictate otherwise,” Wells said. “If we learned anything in 2020, we learned you can’t put a deadline date on making a decision because of the status of the virus. If vaccinations continue to go in a positive direction and the rate of spread continues to go down, we’ll all be in a better spot.
“It’s impossible in April to know what September is going to bring. We’ll just stay in touch with our university health and medical officials and Monongalia County health department and others in state government.
“We’ll plan to return to full capacity, but be ready to adjust and adapt.”
Thank goodness, Wells said, the Big 12 was able to get last season’s football and basketball games in.
“I think it was hugely important, certainly from a revenue standpoint, but also for morale and sanity, for lack of a better term,” Wells said. “It would have been a really long year for everybody had we not gotten those games played – and that’s for everybody: fans, supporters, staff, certainly for the student-athletes.
“We saw the impact of losing the NCAA basketball tournament. We saw the impact of losing the spring sports season, especially WVU baseball. We would have hated for that to continue into the fall.”
“It was hugely important for revenue, but also for everybody’s mental health and morale.”
Oh, and if you’re wondering, season ticket sales have been going well, said Wells.
“We’re progressing nicely,” he said. “We’re at about 13,000 tickets sold, which is ahead of pace compared to a normal year. The qualifier there is we did have a good number of people that paid for 2020 tickets that opted to roll forward to 2021. We had a good starting base. We sold approximately 25,000 season tickets in 2019, our last full season. To be at 13,000 with two weeks before [priority] deadline puts us on a really good pace.”
One could again imagine Wells knocking on wood.
“Two weeks before the [May 7 priority deadline for Mountaineer Athletic Club members and previous season ticket holders] is only a snapshot,” he said. “We’ll have a better handle once we’re a week or two after the deadline and all the orders postmarked on or before the deadline are received.
“Very optimistic though about the current pace. Feel very good about it.”
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.