HUNTINGTON — Marshall football’s game at East Carolina could still serve as the team’s season opener, but that contest will not come on Aug. 29, according to Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick and coach Doc Holliday.
Hamrick and Holliday confirmed the news during and after Friday’s scheduled practice for the Thundering Herd. Hamrick said earlier on Friday that talks were with East Carolina to move the contest.
“We’re discussing different dates on that, yes,” Hamrick said of the Aug. 29 contest that was supposed to fall in Week Zero. “I can answer that. We’re not sure when. The only thing I can say is we’re in discussions of looking at a later date.”
Holliday confirmed that later date following practice when he spoke on Marshall’s scheduled intra-squad scrimmage for Saturday being reduced to just a walk-through in shorts. The reasoning given was because the Aug. 29 season opener was not going to happen as scheduled.
“Since that game got moved from the 29th until whenever, there’s no sense in us keeping the schedule the same,” Holliday said.
While Hamrick and Holliday each confirmed the date with ECU was moving, neither confirmed a set date for the game to be played. The likelihood is that the game gets moved to Sept. 12, which is the former date that Marshall was scheduled to host Pitt. That game got axed due to ACC rules prohibiting its teams from playing out-of-state non-conference games.
East Carolina also had lost a game at South Carolina on Sept. 12, and on Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper extended the state into Phase 2 of its re-opening plan through Sept. 11. That extension of Phase 2 keeps several venues closed, including entertainment venues, which would effectively shut fans out of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, for the matchup that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
In addition to the season opener moving back from its scheduled start three weeks from Saturday, the change in practice schedule keeps the Herd from taking the field in scrimmage-like situations for the first time since camp broke last week.
Saturday’s scrimmage was a highly-anticipated date with all eyes expected to be fixed on quarterbacks Grant Wells and Luke Zban, who are battling for the starting spot. It was going to be the first time that the coaches stepped off the field and allowed players to go through full segments to see how they respond under a game-type situation.
Players were looking forward to Saturday’s live session in which they got to go play somewhat-uninterrupted at full speed for the first time since the December loss to UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl.
“Saturday we get to go live and get to really compete ...,” Marshall linebacker Tavante Beckett said earlier this week. “I’m just ready for Saturday to see my young guys go hit.”
Instead, Marshall will have a light walk-through and take some time to rest up before opening back up on Monday with workouts in preparation for a season opener in which the date and, potentially, the opponent are unknown. Holliday said that the schedule adjustment is one of several nuances to the 2020 season that he and his team are getting used to on the fly.
“I don’t think there’s any question,” Holliday said. “It changes every day. It changed from yesterday to today and it’s going to change tomorrow because there’s a lot of people making decisions tomorrow on what they’re doing.”
Friday’s practice was the one-week mark of camp opening up for Marshall, and already there has been plenty of adjusting on the fly with schedule and personnel changes coming daily. Holliday said the best thing to do is to keep focused and keep an open mind because it is likely to be the case throughout the entire year.
The Herd’s head coach also joked that his team should be well-adapted to sudden change situations once the season rolls around — well, if it does.
“Every day is a sudden change ...,” Holliday said. “You talk about adversity all the time and what teams can overcome adversity. There’s going to be adversity every day. There’s no doubt about that. They’re going to learn some lessons this year, that’s for sure.”
Hamrick said that communication is also ongoing with Boise State to solidify that contest in Huntington.
A report in the Idaho Press Friday stated that Boise State’s season opener, for now, is the Sept. 25 Marshall game in Huntington. That game is also fluid as the Broncos could look to buy out for $500,000 and get a home game in that slot instead. Also, Marshall’s Sept. 19 contest at Ohio may be in flux as reports surfaced Friday of Northern Illinois making a push for the Mid-American Conference to opt for spring football due to the financial implications involved with testing each week.
The MAC was severely hindered from a financial standpoint when the Big Ten elected to go conference-only, eliminating many “pay” games against MAC teams, which can hinder the league’s members from being able to afford weekly testing and other protocols as outlined by the NCAA in its “Return to Sport” guidelines.