Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, college football continues to return to campuses across the country, and for East Carolina University, Pirate football’s season opener on Sept. 26 will be played without fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
ECU Director of Athletics Jon Gilbert made the official announcement on Sept. 2 that the football season home opener will not have any fans in the crowd, according to ecupirates.com. The Pirates are set to start the season against the University of Central Florida on Sept. 26.
"This is disappointing news to deliver to Pirate Nation," Gilbert said in the announcement. "Currently, it is in the best interest to proceed without fans for our first home game after consulting with local and state health officials. We are optimistic we will be able to host fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during the 2020 season at the appropriate time."
Toward the end of August, according to ECU Pirates, Gilbert announced that the game scheduled for Sept. 12 against Marshall University would be postponed without an officially rescheduled date. Before that, all football activities were halted on Aug. 20 as a result of several positive COVID-19 test results and were resumed the following week on Sept. 1, according to ECU Pirates.
In a press conference after the team’s scrimmage on Sept. 11, head coach Mike Houston said to play without the Pirate Nation fanbase will require some adjustments.
“It’s going to be different. It’s going to be foreign. It’s going to be strange,” Houston said. “I think especially when you factor in our fanbase, our student body, it’s one of the things that’s the strength of our program.”
Houston said the home opener will feel similar to the scrimmages in the pre-season practices. There will be a select few people outside of the team, coaching staff and trainers who will be allowed to attend the game.
The media members allowed at the game will be limited and fan parking lots controlled by ECU will additionally be closed to the public, according to ECU Pirates.
As the season moves forward, ECU Athletics will continue to monitor the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and follow protocols to keep players and coaches safe. ECU Athletics will continue to work with local and state officials as well to determine fan capacity for the remainder of the season, according to ECU Pirates.