PROVO — Fans will not be allowed to attend the next two BYU football games at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the school announced Tuesday, citing a directive by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert as the reason why after 650 new coronavirus cases were reported statewide.

a group of people standing next to a fence: Fans begin entering the stadium as BYU and Hawaii prepare to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

© Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Fans begin entering the stadium as BYU and Hawaii prepare to play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

“In accordance with the state of Utah’s announcement today moving Provo from low (yellow) to a moderate (orange) risk COVID-19 designation, the BYU-Troy football game on Saturday, Sept. 26, will be played without fans,” BYU’s news release said.

BYU’s game on Oct. 2 against Louisiana Tech will also be played without fans because it falls in the same 14-day period that the cities of Provo and Orem will be on a moderate risk restriction level.

“Cougs, difficult news to have to close LaVell’s House to spectators for Troy and La. Tech,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe posted on Twitter moments after the school’s announcement. “Like all the other challenges we have faced together this year, we will move forward strategically and make the most of the tough situation. Hang in there!”

As expected, the announcement was not received well by BYU fans who were planning to attend the home opener, which will be televised nationally on ESPN at 8:15 p.m. MDT. On Sept. 11, BYU announced that “approximately 6,000 fans” would be allowed into the stadium for the Troy game.

“BYU hopes to increase attendance game by game, after carefully monitoring for a safe and positive stadium experience,” it said.

But Herbert’s decision changed those plans.

“This is the first time that we’ve rolled backwards,” Herbert said Tuesday. “Intervention is needed. A little pain now will be better than a lot of pain later.”

Some BYU fans will feel the pain in their pocketbooks, immediately.

“Never been more disappointed in @byu than today,” noted BYU fan Rich Wonnacott on Twitter. “Canceling a game with flights, rentals, hotel rooms, is a ton of work! Appointments deferred so I could travel, now not able to reschedule! Thanks!”

All of Utah County, which includes Provo, Orem and cities such as Spanish Fork, Lehi and Springville, is experiencing a major COVID-19 outbreak, noted state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn in the same news conference Tuesday. She said Utah County’s case growth is 5.4 times that of the rest of the state.

Also, Utah County has a 23% positive test rate. The county reported 291 new cases on Tuesday.

BYU had reported 1,014 cases through Monday, which is 2.4% of the campus community. The past three days have seen 165 new cases.

Tuesday, BYU president Kevin J Worthen made a joint statement with Utah Valley University president Astrid S. Tuminez calling for students to be more vigilant and careful. They warned students that the campuses could be closed and “more dramatic action” taken if the numbers don’t improve within the next two weeks.

When the 6,000 fans announcement was made two weeks ago, BYU linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi said the players were grateful to have any fans at all, after the Cougars defeated Navy 55-3 on Sept. 7 in Maryland in front of an empty stadium.

BYU announced that tickets purchased for the Troy game will be “honored for the first home game once the state designation changes to allow BYU to host fans in the stadium.”

Ticket holders who are interested in receiving a refund for the Troy tickets can email the BYU ticket office at [email protected]. BYU said it will “continue to provide additional information as it becomes available.”

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