The Wake Forest Deacons could not start the season with a bigger chance to shock the college football world than with a chance to host the Clemson Tigers, winners of two of the last four college football playoffs.
But in hosting the three-time national champion Clemson Tigers in Winston-Salem on Sept. 12, it will likely be done without fans.
Clemson-2018 national champions
The Atlantic Coast Conference released the revised week-by- week game schedule on August 6, just one day after Gov. Roy Cooper made his latest extension of Phase 2.
With Cooper extending Phase 2 restrictions, which limits outdoor crowds to 50 people, until at least September 11, it appears that ACC opening weekend contests — including Wake Forest hosting Clemson and the University of North Carolina hosting Syracuse — will be staged without fans in the stands. While a major disappointment for fans, the financial ramifications also hurt .College athletic budgets depend on football ticket revenue to help fund non-revenue sports such as track, tennis, volleyball and others.
East Carolina which plays in the American Athletic Conference for football currently has a home game planned for August 29 against Marshall, and that game will most certainly have to be played without fans.
All the major college sports programs in North Carolina have informed season ticket holders they will likely be utilizing reduced capacity throughout the season. However, Gov. Cooper’s continued Phase 2 extensions have complicated matters.
“Wednesday’s announcement from Gov. Roy Cooper for North Carolina to remain in Phase 2 impacts several aspects of the fall sports season as Wake Forest Athletics staff, coaches and University leadership continue to work together to safely host events this fall.”
In late July, N.C State Athletics Director Boo Corrigan informed N.C State fans:
“N.C. State expects to play with reduced capacity.
It is highly likely that a reduction of capacity for Carter-Finley Stadium will be necessary pending state guidelines.”
A significant problem for NC State, UNC, Wake Forest, Duke, Appalachian State, East Carolina, as well the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, is they have no idea when they can welcome fans, and what the state guidelines will be for stadium capacity.
Typically, Gov. Cooper announces any change/non-change two days before the deadline. He announced on August 5 the extension of Phase 2, approximately 48 hours before the existing executive order was set to expire on August 7.
If the governor follows his typical pattern, he would announce any change or non-change to his latest extension to Phase 2 around September 9.
Making an announcement two days prior to the opening college game is too little time to plan for fans, just especially when there is no guarantee he does not extend Phase 2 again, as he already has multiple times.
Further complicating matters, Cooper has not typically detailed the specifics of the next phase before he announces it. He may decide to change that. But so far, NC State, UNC and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers have not been able to develop a plan that says, “should we move into phase 3, we will be using 30% capacity of the stadium, meaning we will….”
This will also effect the Panthers, who host the Las Vegas Raiders Sunday September 13.
The Panthers have already announced that “home games will have reduced seating capacity based on guidelines from state and local government, medical professionals and public health officials.”
Reduced to what and by how much, the Panthers and their fans, don’t know. Only Roy Cooper knows, and he has not said.
Football is big business in North Carolina. It means jobs. In college, football funds opportunities for non-revenue sports, and academic and competitive opportunities for more student athletes. As of now, it seems fans are on the sidelines and nobody can plan for what is next, because Cooper has total control of the playing field.
One other note: