By SUSAN JONES
Pitt and the ACC still say there will be college football this fall, but fans hoping to head to Heinz Field for the Panthers’ first three games on Sept. 12, 19 and 26 will have to watch from home.
Heinz Field officials informed the University on Aug. 27 that fans will not be able to attend football games at the stadium during the month of September, that includes contests against With Austin Peay, Syracuse and Louisville. Steelers games also will take place without fans.
Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said that during the pre-competition training phase, Pitt’s student-athletes have been role models in following the health guidelines. “The unknown is what hasn't happened yet, which is inter-team competition,” he said. “Because it's between schools in a conference, it depends on what's happening at all of those schools.”
Already the ACC game between N.C. State and Virginia has been rescheduled from Sept. 12 to Sept. 26 because of positive tests and subsequent quarantining of student-athletes on N.C. State’s team. The University of North Carolina, another ACC team, sent students home last week after a spike in positive COVID-19 tests and said it would hold classes remotely this semester, but it still plans to play football. Notre Dame, which is playing with the ACC this year, is on a two-week pause of in-person classes because of a similar spike.
Gallagher said that as with everything related to the pandemic, it’s hard to predict what will happen several weeks out, but as it gets closer the “key decision facing the presidents of all the ACC schools is whether the collective conditions support competition.”
He said the schools discussed how they were doing testing of student-athletes to try to minimize the risk. “If you could guarantee the presence of no virus between two teams, there is no risk,” he said. “The question is how close can you get and that's really the basis of these plans.”
In the end, Gallagher said, Pitt will decide what’s best for its student-athletes. “If we felt a situation wasn't going to be safe for student-athletes, we would not compete. That's a very firm position.”
Having no fans at the games also will reduced the risk. Heather Lyke, Pitt’s athletic director, said in a news release: “Although we are disappointed for our loyal and passionate fans, the Panther Pitt student section and especially our student-athletes’ families and friends, the University of Pittsburgh respects and understands the guidelines set forth by state and county health officials.”
She said they will continue to monitor if fans will be able to attend at any of fall sports’ home venues beyond September. Currently, outdoor gatherings in Pennsylvania are limited to 250 people. After September, there are only three more home football games Pitt has scheduled at Heinz Field: N.C. State on Oct. 3, Notre Dame on Oct. 24 and Virginia Tech on Nov. 21.
Season ticket holders have three options on payments for the games they won’t be allowed to attend at Heinz Field:
Re-invest: Transfer your ticket cost and/or your Scholarship Seating Membership to the Panther Club to student-athletes.
Rollover: Apply your 2020 football ticket payment and/or Scholarship Seating Membership to the 2021 season
Refund: Full or partial refunds of ticket cost and/or Scholarship Seating Membership can be requested. Season ticket holders who select this offer will be eligible to renew their same seats for the 2021 football season.
Season ticket holders will be receiving an email with account and option details.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-4294.
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