Contributors, Local Sports, Sports

COLUMN: The rug has been pulled from underneath us in Monongalia County, and we’re allowed to be mad


There’s no other way to say it: Monongalia County athletes had the rug pulled out from under them Friday afternoon. They were mad, parents were mad, coaches and media were mad, and rightfully so. 

After all, they were told that, since Mon was in the yellow by last Saturday’s deadline, they could play Friday if they were in the orange Thursday morning. That meant, under that rule change, even if we hit the red on Friday, we could play that night. That’s it. Nothing more.

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources updated their county alert system map Friday morning after a long delay, which saw Monongalia County go into the red. (WVDHHR Graphic)

Then Gov. Justice decided that wasn’t the case. Counties in the red can’t play, that was the rule. Trust me, I understand that and I thought the color-coded system was great to keep things in check and keep subjective thought out of it. But I, and I’d wager the rest of the people mad about this, are not mad that we lost Friday night’s football games because we went into the red, but because we were told there was a way to play, we met those requirements and still got nothing. 

Don’t forget, we’re talking about 14- to 18-year-old children here. We’re not talking about adults who can take it on the chin, we’re talking about people who shouldn’t have to take a hit like that. Many of these children were on the road, headed to their respective games.

Before I get to the culprit behind all of this, let me share with you some thoughts from these students. I’d like to start with UHS players Jacob Stevens and Drew Burton. The Hawks, like Clay-Battelle on the way to Bishop Rosecrans (Ohio), were en route to Parkersburg South when they got the news to turn around.

“It’s such bull of them to cancel our game,” Stevens said. “WVU can play, can go to class, have intramural sports. But the kids are stuck at home without sports, just sitting at home. It’s bull.”

“I think it’s utter bull that they canceled our game,” Burton said. “I mean, we all worked so hard, and for what?’

Morgantown senior running back and defensive end Deondre Crudup tweeted, “So your [sic] telling me 48 out of 49 COVID cases are WVU students and not one kid from either high school tested positive for COVID and I can’t play football? But when I turn that TV on when it’s Saturday I’m going to see WVU Football playing? Doesn’t make sense.”

Finally, I’d like you to hear from C-B sophomore QB/WR Carson Shriver.

“Honestly I was disappointed but not surprised,” he said. “I knew when the color chart came out the WVU students would mess up our season, and I’m honestly very disappointed. I know I have a few more years to play but I’m especially devastated for our seniors. I don’t think it’s fair to the schools in our county that we can’t play our sports because of the WVU students, and WVU will be allowed to play because they are seen as ‘more important.’ The WVU students should have to follow the same guidelines we did during June and even now. We all want our sports back and want to be treated fairly. I just still hope there’s a chance we can finish our season.”

Clay-Battelle is by far the most affected, in my opinion, by all of this. Being on the rural side of the county, the Cee-Bees are at the least risk of exposure in that area – note I’m not saying if they travel into town – which means other teams could easily travel to them and play safely per the new guidelines. Take other rural towns like Ellenboro and West Union which are both off U.S. 50, home of Ritchie County and Doddridge County high schools, respectively. Both counties are in the green, both got to play, but Clay-Battelle, tucked into the western pocket of Mon County and not even that close to a major highway, can’t play because of an explosion of cases pinpointed to West Virginia University. 

So here we are, to the culprit of all of this. We were doing great as a county before more than 26,000 students returned to college. Sure, there were those irresponsible people at Kroger or the mall who refused to wear masks, but just weeks ago came the house parties, and then the pictures we’ve seen of Fat Daddy’s. According to a statement released by the bar, they were following guidelines set by the county and state, and I believe that. They would have to. But now, because of the optics of one picture, WVU is allowed to have a scapegoat for why cases have exploded. 

Do we actually think that’s the real reason? Logically, yes, the house parties and going out without masks, packed together like sardines on the street waiting to get into bars can lead to the spread of disease. But are we really going to put all the blame on a bunch of 18- to 23-year-olds for going out to have fun to a place that mandated masks inside, gave out free hand sanitizer and kept those people spread out as best as possible? Why are we not asking in the same breath why WVU chose to bring back all those kids and ignore the fact they would party and go out to drink. Did they forget that they’re consistently ranked as a top party school?

President Gordon Gee said those kids broke his trust. I can’t help but wonder how many of us are saying that about him. Through my four years at WVU, it always said it was a driver of change. A leader of innovation. A place that harbored a safe atmosphere. But when the chips were all on the line, it failed to hold up to that. I don’t know the financial situation at WVU, nor will I act that I do. But wouldn’t a leader forego physical classes, drop tuition to the online course price and tell those 26,000 students to stay home, stay healthy and when this is all over, we can go back to normal with on-campus classes? Why can the WVU football team take mostly online classes, but the regular student has to weather dorms and large classes to get an education? At the face of it, it looks like it’s a money grab – WVU collects the housing and on-campus tuition fees, sends the students packing when they have a reasonable excuse to do so, and, in the meantime, our community suffers for it. Our students don’t get to see each other, seniors don’t get to play a full season or a season at all, parents have to scramble to find things for their child to do, special needs students might not get the help they need, and the list goes on and on. 

As a community, we did our job to have in-person schooling and to see the return of sports. 

I’m sick of people who don’t understand this sharing their opinions about high school sports. Truly, I’ve been sick of people sharing their uneducated opinions over the last few months concerning the return of sports, saying, “They don’t matter, we should be focused on other things right now,” or some other garbage opinion. This new rule from last week wasn’t rigged so we could have sports, this was an opportunity for a county who’s overly affected by the largest university in the state that’s in our backyard to have one week of games. One week. 

So no, we aren’t mad about the color-coded rules. But we are mad, and we should be. We’re mad about the inconsistency from our leaders. We’re mad WVU chose money over the community. Most of all, we’re mad about having the rug pulled from under us. 

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