A decision by the governor on Friday morning means up to 350 tickets will be distributed for NC State’s game against Wake Forest on Saturday, according to a report from The News & Observer. Wake Forest parents will get 100 tickets for the game, with Wolfpack parents making up the remaining 250.
The article does not mention ECU’s Sept. 26 matchup against UCF, but an ECU spokesperson was reached for comment on Friday.
“We are aware of this development and excited for our student-athletes and their families,” an ECU spokesperson said on Friday morning. “Working through specifics today, but plan is to utilize all (tickets) that is permitted for parents.”
With 250 tickets presumably available to ECU parents for the season-opener, the athletic department would be able to give each of their 118 football players two tickets apiece.
It is a sight sports fans will grow accustomed to seeing through their television sets in the year of COVID-19 — reduced stadium capacities and socially distanced crowds in the stands. All throughout college football during the first official Saturday of the season last week, crowds of varying degrees could be spotted.
North Carolina teams, however, are still limited to no more than 50 people in stadiums that regularly seat 50,000-plus people. Under his Phase 2.5 guidance, Governor Roy Cooper failed to make a perversion that would allow college and professional teams to welcome limited amounts of fans. His office took that one step further, denying requests by teams to have student-athletes’ families attend games past the 50-person limit.
“We’re allowed 50 fans in our 50,000-seat stadium,” ECU head football coach Mike Houston said. “We’re going to prioritize our upperclassmen parents. Still working out the details of how many tickets a kid can get. If we give everybody two then that’s obviously only 25 kids that can get tickets. So we’re going to try to work a structure to where it’s fair to our juniors and seniors and hopefully everybody can at least get one ticket.”
Parents of NC State players submitted a petition to Cooper with 96 signatures requesting he allow families of student-athletes access to the stands. Their argument centers around the fact that if each player was given three or four tickets, that would mean no more than 500 people in a stadium that holds 100 times that number.
For ECU, allowing three family members of every student-athlete to attend the Sept. 26 season-opener against UCF would mean 354 tickets distributed. Even using protocols that exceed CDC recommendations, parents would be able to spread out and socially distance at an acceptable level.
With just eight days before kick-off, there does not seem to be any movement from Cooper on the matter, meaning parents will likely miss a significant milestone in their son’s football career.
“You’re going to have parents miss the first game of their son’s career next Saturday,” Houston said. “I’m sure my wife would be the exact same way, she goes to everything that the kids have. I just think that’s the real tragedy in it all. It’s hard. Jon Gilbert and I talked a good bit (about) using the 50 tickets for the upperclassmen parents. It’s hard for me when one player’s parents can be there and another player’s parents can’t. I just think that’s a tragedy.”
For parents who live hundreds of miles from Greenville and have watched their child get recruited by ECU, attending football games can represent the only time they get to see their son during the season and since workouts began over the summer.
Houston said on Thursday there is still time for something to change and that he is completely supportive of anything that will get players’ families in the stands of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Sept. 26.
“Anything that we can do to get all of our families in the stands for our players in the next week I would be all for,” Houston said. “I just think that’s important for these kids, I think it’s important for mom and dad. I talked to one family last weekend. They are hours and hours away and they have not seen their son since back at the beginning of July. It’s just tough, for those freshmen parents especially. Will anything change between now and next week? I don’t know. That’s up to somebody besides me.”
In the place of thousands of fans, ECU plans to pump in crowd noise on the stadium speakers and use music to create a game day atmosphere. The Pirates kick-off against UCF on Sept. 26 at noon.