East Carolina’s 2020 football schedule underwent adjustments on Thursday that significantly impacted the start of the season.
The Pirates’ opener at home against Marshall, which had been moved from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29, and then to Sept. 12, has been removed from the slate for the present due to a time crunch generated by the number of coronavirus isolations, which caused practices to be stopped on Aug. 19.
Unless athletic director Jon Gilbert adds a game to the schedule before a new date with Central Florida on Sept. 26, that matchup in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will mark the first game in Mike Houston’s second season as ECU coach.
The Pirates were scheduled to host UCF on Thursday, Sept. 24, but the American Athletic Conference changed that date on Thursday as well as ECU’s contest at Cincinnati from Thursday, Nov. 12, to Saturday, Nov. 14.
“The ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on all of us,” Gilbert said Thursday. “These are difficult, frustrating and unprecedented times. Individuals, families and businesses are all being affected. Today’s news is disappointing to me on so many levels — obviously, with our student-athletes, coaches and our staff, but also with our community. I know what this does to affect our community.”
Gilbert said he was reluctant to schedule a game on Sept. 19 because of issues that could arise that might jeopardize the matchup the following week with the Knights. ECU currently has 30 program personnel in isolation due to positive tests for a smaller number. Some are quarantined because of being in close contact with some that tested positive.
“They can’t test out,” Gilbert said of those in isolation.
Those isolated through contact tracing are going through a 14-day restriction. Those who test positive are quarantined for a minimum of 10 days. Many are asymptomatic or are experiencing minor symptoms.
Houston met with the bulk of the team Thursday afternoon in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, which allowed social distancing. The coaching staff has been communicating online with those in isolation.
“They’re disappointed,” Houston said.
The Pirates are hopeful of resuming workouts next week, but Houston said there will be ground to be made up in terms of conditioning and regaining the momentum that two scrimmages had produced.
Houston said there was still a lot to play for.
ECU coaches will turn game-planning focus to UCF after compiling a preliminary book on the Knights during the summer.
Gilbert said various models are being examined regarding admissions for season ticket holders and students. The AD wants to take as long as possible before ticket policies are announced so that attendance can be in accordance with possible changes in government medical advisories.
Houston expressed confidence in the game plan for Marshall — when and if that game takes place.