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USA TODAY

Oregon’s first three football games will likely have to be played without fans if the college football season is able to start on time.

Gov. Kate Brown said on Thursday that her current expectation is that large gatherings will not be allowed in the state until at least October.

Oregon is scheduled to open the season at Autzen Stadium against North Dakota State on Sept. 5 followed by a high-profile game against Ohio State on Sept. 12 at Autzen. The Ducks will host Hawaii on Sept. 19 before playing at Colorado on Sept. 26.

Oregon’s next home game is scheduled for Oct. 3 against Washington.

“There is some difficult news to share,” Brown said during a press conference to announce the first phase of reopening the state in the midst of COVID-19. “Large gatherings, including live sporting events with audiences, concerts, festivals and conventions will not be able to return until we have a reliable treatment or prevention like a vaccine.

“The Oregon Health Authority is advising that any large gathering, at least through September, should either be canceled or significantly modified. I know this is really, really hard. I will miss visiting our fairs and festivals this year.”

Oregon State athletics, the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and MLS’ Portland Timbers are other prominent sports entities potentially affected by Thursday’s news. 

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“We will continue to work with state and local officials, public health experts, and campus leadership in navigating all of the unprecedented issues surrounding COVID-19 and when our student-athletes will be able to return to competition,” read a statement released by Oregon Athletics following the governor’s comments. “The health and safety of our student-athletes and community will continue to be our top priority.”

The status of college sports in the fall remains uncertain due to the coronavirus. There has been talk that the football season could be shortened, delayed or even moved to the spring.

Brown was asked if she was ordering all large gatherings through September to be canceled or modified.

“I wanted to give Oregonians a sense of what the future holds in terms of a large gatherings,” she said. “At this point in time, it is a recommendation. We haven’t made that formal decision yet.”

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, said he does not expect fans to be allowed at sporting events through September.

“We want to continue to examine the types of activities that can take place,” he said. “Noncontact sports like golf and tennis, where people can maintain a distance, are probably some of the things we will see coming back first. For some other sports, basketball and football and other things where there is more close contact, obviously there is more risk.

“As we approach football season, we can see how the disease is behaving in our community and what kinds of steps can be taken around the teams themselves, coaches and others around the team, to see if they can safely start but as you heard from the Governor’s remarks, large gatherings will likely not be happening through the end of September. So when those activities resume, they would likely resume without fans in the stands, but hopefully watching from a screen in the safety of their home.”

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