FARGO - Upon further, further review, there will be very few fans for the North Dakota State and Central Arkansas football game on Saturday. University officials announced late Tuesday afternoon only players’ families will be allowed inside Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
It marks the end of a slide of estimated attendance since Cass County moved to a yellow threat level last week with the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDSU, in a release, said the decision was made in the best interest of health and safety for participating student-athletes, coaches and fans.
NDSU along with Fargo Cass Public Health, the city of Fargo and the Fargodome originally stated 10,000 would be allowed to come to the game, NDSU’s only one this fall. That was cut to 8,200, which Bison athletic director Matt Larsen said last week was done in anticipation of the yellow level.
It's not clear what changed. Larsen, when contacted late Tuesday, said he did not want to comment other than what information was provided in the release.
The decision appeared to come quick. An hour earlier at the Fargo Dome Authority meeting, there was no mention of attendance being slashed.
“We continue to prepare for the football game this Saturday,” said Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik. “Making sure everything is operating as it should, re-cleaning the building, getting things cleaned up. All hand sanitizers are up around the concourse and the plexiglass shields in place with concession stands.”
Sobolik reported to the Authority that since the last meeting, the Missouri Valley Football Conference issued a new spring schedule for 2021, with NDSU opening on Sunday, Feb. 21 against Youngstown State.
The North Dakota state wrestling tournament is scheduled at the dome through Saturday, Feb. 20
NDSU Team Makers booster club sent out an email to its 3,300 season ticket holders of three options for the rest of the season, which would include the spring of 2021: Converting the two canceled games from an original six-game season ticket package to a donation, apply the two unused games to the 2021 fall season or a refund for the two games.
The Bison-Bears game will be televised by the North Dakota NBC Network and also carried on ESPN-Plus.
The NDSU players and coaches were preparing for a limited audience anyway, saying they were more concerned about the product on the field.
"Honestly, we have the anticipation of bringing out own energy," said head coach Matt Entz. "Bison vs. Bison, be prepared to play. We're not going to use the lack of fans or a quieter venue as an excuse. I asked the players when they started playing football at (age) 6, 7 or 13, there weren't big crowds then. You played because you love the game."