ECU Athletic Director Jon Gilbert formally announced in a release on Wednesday that the Pirates’ season opening football against UCF in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement comes a day after North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declined to move the state into Phase 3 of reopening, instead electing for a hybrid Phase 2.5. While playgrounds and gyms will be allowed to open under the order, Cooper said sporting events will be held to the mass gathering limit of 50 people outdoors and 25 people indoors.

“This is disappointing news to deliver to Pirate Nation,” Gilbert said in the release. “Currently, it is in the best interest to proceed without fans for our first home game after consulting with local and state health officials. We are optimistic we will be able to host fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during the 2020 season at the appropriate time.”

After ECU’s game against Marshall was postponed, the Pirates are down to just five home games for the 2020 season. This announcement means, at best, Pirate fans will only be allowed to attend four home games this season. Of course, that number could change depending on the state’s COVID-19 trends and guidance from state health officials.

Gilbert has said multiple times this summer that the athletic department could take a phased approach to attendance this fall, meaning they could start at 0% capacity and expand to 15-20%. Obviously the feasibility of that and the specific percentage would need to be worked out in the coming days and weeks.

Only essential game management and broadcast personnel will be allowed at the UCF game, according to the release. A limited number of media members will also be allowed, but university-operated parking lots used for game days will be closed.

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