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No Fans At Fall Sporting Events, Duke Says

Duke football Wallace Wade
Mitchell Northam

Duke University will play sports this fall, but there won’t be any fans in the stands when balls are kicked and tackles are made.

The school announced Monday that, due to the impact of COVID-19, it will begin its fall sports seasons without spectators at home games. Parking lots will also be closed to fans on game days.

Any games played on Duke’s campus this fall will only include players, coaches, essential game management personnel and media.

"To be sure, our venues will not be the same without our passionate, energetic fan base," Duke Athletic Director Kevin White said in a statement. "Given the unique and challenging circumstances, this determination was reached with the health and safety of our fans, student-athletes, coaches and staff at the forefront. As this evolving process continues, it is imperative to be both adaptable and compliant in anticipation of hosting fans in the near future."

Elsewhere in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Boston College announced it will not have fans at football games in September and Syracuse will not allow fans or tailgating. Georgia Tech will allow 20% capacity.

UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and N.C. State have not announced specific rulings on if they’ll allow fans, and if so, how many. On Aug. 4, according to the Winston-Salem Journal, Wake Forest said it will only offer individual game tickets this year and face coverings must be worn in football stadium.

Duke says that fans who have already purchased tickets for the upcoming football season – or have seating and suite contracts in Blue Devil Tower – will receive an email regarding options. Fans of the Blue Devils can support the team with “fan cutouts” which will be placed in seats to help “replicate the game day atmosphere.”

Duke football Deon Jackson
Credit Mitchell Northam / WUNC
Duke's Deon Jackson returns a kick vs. Pitt in a 2019 home game at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The Blue Devils begin their 2020 football season on the road on Sept. 12 at Notre Dame. Duke will then host Boston College the following week.

In the SEC this season, fans will be required to wear masks at football games. The ACC has not yet issued league-wide guidelines regarding attendance by fans.

Along with the SEC, the ACC is one of six FBS conferences that are set to play football this fall amid the pandemic, joining the Big 12, the Sun Belt, CUSA and the American Athletic Conference. In addition to the ACC, North Carolina has schools that are members of the Sun Belt (Appalachian State), CUSA (UNC-Charlotte) and the AAC (East Carolina).

UNC-Charlotte announced recently that its opening football game at Richardson Stadium vs. Georgia State will be played without fans.

Mitchell Northam is a Digital Producer for WUNC. His past work has been featured at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, SB Nation, the Orlando Sentinel and the Associated Press. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and is also a voter in the AP Top 25 poll for women's college basketball.
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