Today, the American Athletic Conference formally announced its scheduling model for the 2020 football season, as well as all other fall sports.

For football, the AAC Board of Directors voted unanimously on plans to begin the conference slate on Sept. 19 and play eight league games on their originally scheduled dates. The conference will also allow member institutions to schedule up to four non-conference games at their discretion.

Three potential dates for the American Football Championship are Dec. 5, 12 and 19 and will played at the stadium of the regular-season champion, according to the release. The date for that game will be finalized no later than Nov. 1.

“With the guidance of the health experts on the COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board and through the diligent work of the athletics staffs at our schools and at the conference, we have a sensible direction for the return of intercollegiate athletics in the fall,” M. David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis and chair of The American’s Board of Directors, said in the release.

For ECU, this announcement paves the way for the Pirates to play the current 10 games on their schedule. Earlier in the off-season season restrictions by both the MEAC and SEC meant Norfolk State and South Carolina would not play ECU in 2020.

That means the Pirates have a remaining home contest against Marshall currently scheduled for Aug. 29 and a road tilt with Georgia State on Oct. 3 to comprise its non-conference schedule.

In a “From The Helm” letter to Pirate Nation released shortly after the AAC’s announcement, ECU Athletic Director Jon Gilbert said the Pirates’ conference schedule will not change and his department will “keep our schedule at 10 games while continuing to have discussions with other schools.”

Some of discussions revolve around the date for ECU’s season-opener, currently scheduled for Week 0. In his letter, Gilbert suggested a date in early or mid-September for that game and that discussions are on-going with Marshall officials.

With no change to the conference side of the schedule, ECU will open their AAC slate as scheduled on Sept. 24 against UCF in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

As far as what the attendance will look like in Dowdy-Ficklen this year, Gilbert wrote: “While we aim to have fans in attendance, it’s imperative we create an atmosphere that is safe for all involved and includes following all mandated protocols.”

That includes making facial coverings mandatory at all athletic venues, Gilbert wrote.

While acknowledging there will be a limited capacity in sporting venues on campus, Gilbert wrote he and his department are still working with university, local and state health officials on what can be safely allowed.

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