With Hurricane Irma taking aim at Florida, the University of Florida on Thursday canceled its home opener against Northern Colorado, and South Florida’s conference opener at Connecticut was called off as well.
Late Thursday, Florida State canceled its home opener scheduled for Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe.
Early Friday, Central Florida's game against Memphis, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., was postponed as well.
The Gators and Bears originally were scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but UF officials pushed the start time up until noon in hopes of completing the game before the severe weather arrived. As the storm’s path started to become more clear, UF athletic director Scott Stricklin said playing a football game was not in the best interests of either program.
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“The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts. 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,” Stricklin said.
Said Gators coach Jim McElwain, whose team opened with a 33-17 loss to Michigan: “When you look at the impact this event could have, you have to sit back and realize what’s really important in life. In this case, we’re doing everything we can to help facilitate with what may occur.”
Since Florida and Northern Colorado do not share a common bye week, the game will not be rescheduled. Up next for UF: The SEC opener against Tennessee on Sept. 16.
This is the Gators’ second game in two seasons affected by a major storm: The LSU-UF game last October was postponed for a month and relocated to Baton Rouge because of Hurricane Matthew.
Not long after the Florida-Northern Colorado game was canceled, USF officials announced Saturday’s American Athletic Conference game at UConn would not be played as scheduled. Neither program said whether the game would be rescheduled, but there were reports that it would be canceled.
The programs had moved up the kickoff from noon to 10:30 a.m., hoping that would give the Bulls enough time to get back to Tampa in advance of the storm.
“As I noted in my comments (Wednesday), the safety and well-being of our students, staff and coaches is our paramount concern,” USF director of athletics Mark Harlan said. “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 for our team to travel at this time.
“I want to extend our gratitude to the University of Connecticut and the American Athletic Conference for their compassion and understanding. Our thoughts are with all of those impacted by the hurricane.”
USF opened with victories against San Jose State and Stony Brook and is scheduled to host Illinois next Friday at 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Miami announced that Saturday’s game at Arkansas State was canceled and would not be rescheduled since the programs did not share an open date. The Hurricanes opened with a victory against Bethune-Cookman and are scheduled to return to action Sept. 16 with a prime-time nationally televised showdown against ACC rival Florida State.
FSU and Miami share Oct. 7 as an open date, and there has been talk that the teams could move the game to that date if South Florida is hit hard by Irma.
Coming off a loss to No. 1 Alabama in which former IMG Academy standout quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season with a left knee injury, FSU was scheduled to host Louisiana-Monroe at noon on Saturday. That game was moved from 7 p.m. to noon to try to beat the weather, but school officials canceled the game late Thursday.
Central Florida was scheduled to host AAC rival Memphis at 6:30 p.m. Friday. That game originally was scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday. It was not immediately known if the game would be rescheduled.