Rice University announced on Friday the Owls’ opening football game with Middle Tennessee at Rice Stadium on Oct. 24 will be played without fans in the stands. 

The decision to open the season without fans in attendance aligns with the university’s mitigation protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have allowed the school to maintain a low rate of positive tests for the virus while offering in-person instruction for most of its classes during the fall semester. 

Rice Athletics will continue to work with the Rice Crisis Management Team to assess whether fans can attend the remaining home games in 2020 and will update the status before each game.

 “It’s unfortunate that our fans will not be in Rice Stadium for the first game, but the safety of our student-athletes and campus community is our primary responsibility,” said Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard. “The guidelines developed by the Rice Crisis Management Team have helped us achieve a very low positivity rate while also allowing us to play this fall. We will work with them on procedures and benchmarks needed for fans to join us later this season.”

In accordance with the Rice Ticket Assurance program, football season ticket members will receive an email from tickets@rice.edu offering them the option to either donate their ticket credit to the Rice Athletics Scholarship Fund, keep the money on their account for a future purchase, or receive a refund.  The final credit amount will be determined based on the number of games played with fans in attendance. 

While fans won’t experience the game in person, the Owls will be announcing a series of virtual enhancements to provide them with unique access on game day. Final details on the full array of options will be released early next week. 

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