Francis Combs set to end 598-game streak with Wolfpack football for his family

Wolfpack Sports Network spotter will travel to Virgin Islands for mens basketball instead of attending 599th football game to be with his son Chris.

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
NC State's Carter-Finley stadium will be the venue when the Carolina Hurricanes host a Stadium Series outdoor game. (North State Journal)

Fifty years ago, Francis Combs didn’t set out to attend 598 straight football games. Fifty-one seasons after attending his first NC State game, he never planned to miss Saturday’s game that will ultimately end the streak.So why will he miss this weekend’s game against Miami at Carter-Finley Stadium? His son simply asked him to be somewhere else.Chris Combs, who is battling with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), made plans to go to the Virgin Islands to watch the men’s basketball team in the Paradise Jam. The Wolfpack Club assistant director wanted to bring his father along, but knew he’d have to miss a football game.Francis hesitated slightly about heading to the Virgin Islands, but knew he could spend valuable time with Chris, his wife Gena and his three grandchildren.”I knew this streak would end sometime,” Francis told Tim Peeler of “Going to so many consecutive games wasn’t something I ever really intended to do, something I hadn’t even thought of until about 10 years ago when I first counted them up.”So I’m not really losing anything.”Francis has spent the last 598 football games as a spotter for the Wolfpack Sports Network. The first game of the streak was in East Lansing, Michigan, where Francis hitchhiked to simply do his job for radio announcers Bill Jackson and Wally Ausley.While Francis has spent nearly every fall weekend as a spotter over the last 50 years, his ties to NC State are much deeper. Francis and twin brother Freddie Combs were members of the 1968 baseball team that went to Omaha under coach Sam Esposito while Freddie was also an All-American defensive back for head football coach Earle Edwards.Baseball remained a huge part of Francis’ life years after his college career was over, travelling with former high school teammate Jim “Catfish” Hunter as a batting practice pitcher for the Oakland A’s and New York Yankees. He would also coach both sons, Chris and Ryan, from little league to high school, all the while never missing an NC State football game.With a life expectancy of two to five years due to his ALS, Chris Combs hopes to have many more trips like the one he’ll take with his father this coming weekend. As expected, the Wolfpack community is rallying around his cause, with the NC State basketball team growing beards in November simply to raise awareness for the disease and Combs himself.”Chris is an amazing person,” Mark Gottfried said. “My staff and I want to show our support to Chris and his family and help in any way we can. We are honored to be part of and hope to follow Chris’ lead in raising awareness to fight this terrible disease.”Currently holding a record of 319 wins, 270 losses and nine ties during his 50-year streak of consecutive games, Francis’ career is far from over with the Wolfpack. In fact, he’ll look to start a new streak at 1-0 when NC State heads to Chapel Hill next Friday afternoon for the season finale.So is it worth it to be away from his beloved Wolfpack football team?”For my family, I’ll do anything,” Francis said.