East Carolina will not get to accommodate the families of all its players for the team’s Sept. 26 season opener against UCF, but the Pirates are planning to maximize their small allotment, per the North Carolina government, for the contest inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. While last week’s waiver to allow more than 300 fans – all family members of players and coaches – inside the stadium was denied by the state, ECU plans to allow at least 50 fans into the venue.
Per North Carolina’s current Phase 2.5 guidelines, sporting events can only have a maximum of 50 spectators – regardless of how big the stadium is – at a game at one time. After schools like North Carolina, Appalachian State and Wake Forest elected to use those 50 tickets for select parents and close family members of its upperclassmen players, the Pirates are opting to do the same.
How exactly the system is constructed and which players get a specific amount of tickets versus others is still being worked on.
“We’re allowed 50 fans in our 50,000 seat stadium,” ECU head coach Mike Houston said following Tuesday’s practice. “We’re going to prioritize our upperclassman parents. We’re still working out the details of how many tickets a kid can get. If we give everybody two, then only 25 kids can get tickets. We’re going to try to work a structure that’s fair to our juniors and seniors, and hopefully everybody can at least get one ticket.”
Per ECU’s online roster, the Pirates currently have four graduate students, 14 seniors and 17 juniors. If each one of those players received one ticket to give to a family member, that would account for 35 tickets alone.
ECU announced on Sept. 2 that it wouldn’t have fans in the stands for the season opener. Every other school in the state is in the same situation, with no public fan attendance allowed through September. The state of North Carolina was in Phase 2 for several months before Gov. Roy Cooper progressed to Phase 2.5 in early September. The order is effective from Sept. 4 through Oct. 2.
The hope around the industry is fans will be allowed in venues in a limited capacity beginning in October, but there’s no guarantee. Panthers owner David Tepper, who owns the NFL team in Charlotte, is hopeful Cooper eventually relaxes on the restrictions as well.
“I understand Cooper has a difficult job with this COVID from an optics standpoint and a science standpoint,” Tepper said earlier this month, via Panthers.com. “I’m hopeful we’ll have continued conversations, the science will prevail, and we’ll have fans.
“I think Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida — they’ll have approval. And I expect those teams will be having fans through the year. We’re hopeful that when we get into October, we’ll be talking with the governor, and we’ll have fans, too.”