Kentucky Derby conflict prompts NC State-Louisville football schedule change

The game, originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3, will now be played on Wednesday, Sept. 2 because of conflicts with the rescheduled Kentucky Derby

NC State quarterback Devin Leary scrambles away from Louisville's Jared Goldwire during the Cardinals' win in Raleigh last season. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)

The opening week of the college football season is a big deal, but even that pales by comparison to the hoopla and national attention surrounding the Kentucky Derby.

Especially in Louisville, Kentucky.

Usually, the two are spaced far enough apart on the calendar that they don’t conflict with one another. But that’s not the case this year now that horse racing’s most prestigious event has been moved from the first Saturday in May to Labor Day weekend because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Because of the festivities surrounding the Derby and the fact that Louisville’s Cardinal Stadium shares numerous parking areas with Churchill Downs, which is located less than two miles away, the season opener between ACC Atlantic Division rivals NC State and Louisville has been moved.

The game, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3, will now be played a day earlier on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The change was formally approved by the College Football Oversight Committee last week, according to State spokesman Fred Demarest.

“They first approached us about this in March,” Demarest said. “All parties were willing.”

Although the actual Kentucky Derby won’t be run until Saturday, Sept. 4, there are numerous other events held in connection with the race over the course of several days. Among them is one known as “Kentucky Thurby,” which is set for the original date of the State-Louisville opener.

“Their concern was conflict with ‘Thurby,’ which is a big day in a similar footprint,” Demarest said.

Kickoff time and television network designation for the State-Louisville game have yet to be determined and will be announced at a later date. There is also a chance that the game could be rescheduled again — or even canceled — depending on the status of the coronavirus crisis and the teams’ ability to prepare for the season.

If the game is played, it will be the Wolfpack’s first season opener against an ACC opponent since playing Virginia Tech in 2005.