For the second time this week, an in-state college football team has been forced to postpone its season-opening game because of the coronavirus.
East Carolina athletic director Jon Gilbert announced Thursday that the Pirates’ game against Marshall on Sept. 12 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be rescheduled to a date to be determined later in 2020. The move comes just two days after NC State made a similar decision to postpone its opening game.
“We are disappointed we won’t be able to host Marshall for our season-opener, but our top priority remains the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, fans and our community,” Gilbert said in a statement. “Mike Hamrick and Marshall have been tremendous to work with as we work to reschedule the game.”
ECU, like NC State, has been forced to temporarily shut down its preseason preparations because of a COVID-19 outbreak within its athletic department. A “cluster” is defined by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services as five or more cases that are deemed close proximity in location.
The Marshall game was originally scheduled for Aug. 29 and is designed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of tragedy that saw the entire Thundering Herd team killed in a plane crash returning home from a game in Greenville.
The Pirates will now begin their 2020 schedule on Saturday, Sept. 26 against Central Florida at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, according to a revised American Athletic Conference schedule also released Thursday. The AAC also announced that the Pirates’ game at Cincinnati will be moved from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14.
According to Gilbert, it has yet to be determined how many, if any, fans will be allowed to attend ECU’s home games this season.
“We anticipate having fans in the stadium in 2020 and will be implementing safety measures and COVID-19 protocols in conjunction with local health officials,” Gilbert said. “This continues to be a fluid situation and we can’t wait to all be together again in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium rooting on the Pirates. The support of Pirate Nation means everything to our athletic department and we continue to ask for your patience and understanding. It’s imperative we continue to look out for each other and stay safe as we go through this pandemic.”