Friday, November 17, 2017
Colleges

USF, Florida, Florida State cancel Saturday football games due to Irma

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The statewide threat posed by Hurricane Irma has prompted the cancellation of Saturday football games involving Florida, USF and Florida State.

Florida canceled its home opener against Division I-AA Northern Colorado as the threat of Irma grew Thursday. Later in the day, USF athletic director Mark Harlan announced the Bulls would not travel to Connecticut for a scheduled Saturday morning game against the Huskies.

Neither game is expected to be rescheduled.

Late Thursday, FSU canceled its home opener against Louisiana-Monroe. It did not announce whether the game would be rescheduled. The teams don't have a common week off. FSU's next scheduled game is at home against rival Miami on Sept. 16.

COMPLETE IRMA COVERAGE: Keep up to date with the latest on Hurricane Irma.

Though USF-UConn is an American Athletic Conference game, the teams do not share a bye week the rest of the season.

"It is unlikely to be rescheduled, but we don't want to rule it out as a certainty in Week 2," AAC spokesman Chuck Sullivan said.

On Wednesday, Miami canceled its nonconference game at Arkansas State because of the storm.

"The safety and well-being of our students, staff and coaches is our paramount concern," USF's Harlan said in a news release.

"Several large areas of the state are under evacuation orders, including portions of the Tampa Bay area. After consultation with university leadership and outside agencies, I believe it is not appropriate … to travel at this time."

The Bulls' game in East Hartford originally was slated to kick off at noon. It was moved Wednesday to 10:30 a.m. to allow USF's charter flight to return to Tampa earlier. Halftime had been shortened to 15 minutes, and the Bulls had planned to not do postgame interviews.

The loss of a conference game doesn't greatly impair USF's league title hopes. AAC division champions are determined by winning percentage in conference games.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said the Gators and Northern Colorado tried many things to make their game work.

Florida had been working with the Bears to get a charter flight to Gainesville on Friday instead of the team flying commercially into Tampa on Thursday. The schools had moved kickoff from 7:30 p.m. to noon.

They even considered playing Friday in front of an empty stadium, but Stricklin said putting the nonconference game on "is not the right thing to do."

"The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts," he said. "There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress."

This is the second consecutive season the Gators have had to cancel a nonconference game because of weather. Last year Hurricane Matthew caused a rescheduling of the LSU game, which in turn led to the game against Presbyterian being canceled.

Florida will communicate refund information to ticket holders. Its next scheduled game is Sept. 16 against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

"When you look at the impact this (hurricane) could have, you have to sit back and realize what's really important in life," Gators coach Jim McElwain said.

"In this case, we're doing everything we can to help facilitate with what may occur. We've got a lot of kids whose families are in the state of Florida and down south. Our thoughts are with their families, first responders and any individual that may be impacted."

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes. Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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