College football in Florida might take a while to get back on track in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which left millions without power because of wind damage and floods. Florida schools were forced to cancel their Saturday home games as the storm prepared to make landfall over the weekend, and for many there remains little clarity as to when they will be able to kick off at home again.
Most prominently, Miami and Florida State, which were scheduled to meet each other Saturday in Tallahassee, have postponed their showdown until Oct. 7. Both teams will have to deal with extended layoffs as they prepare for their next home games, which won’t be until Sept. 23. Miami is set to host Toledo; FSU is scheduled to host North Carolina State.
Here’s a breakdown of the effect of Irma at Florida colleges.
The Hurricanes currently have no practices on their schedule, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports, as Miami’s Coral Gables campus remains closed until Sept. 18. Whether the program can find a way to practice sooner remains unclear.
“No idea yet,” Hurricanes Athletic Director Blake James told the Palm Beach Post this week. “We will work within whatever guidelines campus establishes after they are able to assess the situation.”
According to the Miami Hurricane, the school’s student newspaper, initial assessments of the campus conducted Tuesday morning showed “major safety hazards.” Officials did not elaborate with any detail, including the status of Hard Rock Stadium, which saw flooding around it during the storm. But one reason officials said they wanted to keep students off campus is to make repair efforts easier.
“I think our concern is that, there are trees down and there are paths that are not able to get through and when you have, having gone through Andrew, Katrina and Wilma, you don’t want people in the way of your construction crews that are trying to clear the path,” Patricia Whitely, vice president for student affairs, told the paper.
The Seminoles’ Tallahassee campus remains closed until Friday. However, according to 247 Sports’s Brendan Sonnone, the Seminoles could practice as early as Tuesday afternoon, as the football team decided to shelter in place.
It also appears that the school’s Doak Campbell Stadium is in good shape. On Monday, much of the Florida State community, including student-athletes who stuck around through Irma, gathered at the stadium’s Dunlap Champions Club to enjoy dinner. Several members of the football, basketball and baseball teams helped serve sodas and dessert to the 4,000 people who attended, according to Seminoles.com.
“It’s real cool to kick back, relax,” FSU defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi said. “This hurricane has had everybody feeling off, feeling down. This type of thing going on right here, it’s helped everybody get their spirits up.”
Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville survived the storm “intact with no major damages,” school officials said (via Saturday Down South), which means it remains a possibility that the Gators could host the Tennessee Volunteers as scheduled Saturday. It will ultimately be left up to the Southeastern Conference, however, to decide whether to allow the game to go on or possibly move it to another location. The final decision has not yet been made.
One of the holdups, according to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, is making sure Gainesville has the security personnel to staff the game. According to the Orlando Sentinel, home games require a 3,300-person staff, including personnel from 17 government agencies and outside vendors.
Meanwhile, Tennessee Coach Butch Jones said (via the Knoxville News Sentinel) that the Volunteers “fully anticipate playing the game in Gainesville.” He added, however, that he’s not privy to the latest information. That’s Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie’s job.
“[He] is on top of things,” Jones said.
University of Central Florida
The Knights have already canceled their game against the Georgia Tech, which was scheduled to take place at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium in Orlando. The reason isn’t because the field is unusable, however; instead, the National Guard plans to use the stadium as a staging area during the continued cleanup effort this weekend.
“We’re honored to host the National Guard and play a part in helping our community and state recover from Irma,” UCF Athletic Director Danny White said in a statement (via the Orlando Sentinel). “On behalf of our student-athletes, athletics staff and fans, I promise the Knights will do everything we can to assist in recovery efforts.”
Georgia Tech AD Todd Stansbury said that while he’s “disappointed” for the student-athletes, coaches and fans, he understands the need.
“We wish them the very best in their recovery efforts and look forward to meeting on the gridiron down the road,” Stransbury said (via the Sentinel).
The teams have not yet announced when they might make up the game.
The FIU Panthers will not travel to Indiana to play the Hoosiers on Saturday because the team remains evacuated in Alabama, the Miami Herald reports. The Miami school’s athletic department and programs took shelter at the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Thursday, playing their scheduled game against Alcorn State there Friday. As of Tuesday, however, the program had no immediate plans to return to the city.
FIU’s campus is closed indefinitely as the administration assesses the damage, and students have been instructed to stay away until instructed.
“Students, faculty and staff will receive ample notice to make their way back to campus,” Provost Kenneth G. Furton said in a statement Monday.
In a statement, Indiana University Athletic Director Fred Glass said (via the Indianapolis Star) that he “supports FIU’s decision” to cancel the game under the circumstances. It’s unlikely the two will meet this season. IU said it is now trying to find an opponent to play at its home, Memorial Stadium, on Oct. 7, which was its originally scheduled bye week. FIU is already scheduled to travel to Middle Tennessee that week.
If all goes as planned for the Owls, they’ll play their home game on Saturday against Bethune-Cookman at their Boca Raton stadium. First, of course, they’ll have to make their way back to Florida from Wisconsin, where they remained after losing, 31-14, to Wisconsin on Saturday.
While FAU classes have been canceled until Sept. 18, students are invited to return beginning on Wednesday, which the team told ESPN is the “earliest” day it would consider traveling home.
As it stood Tuesday afternoon, Saturday’s game had not been canceled, but Florida Atlantic Athletic Director Pat Chun indicated that could change as new information comes to light.
“We’re still assessing our campus and facilities,” Chun said.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has been more than welcoming, Chun said, including allowing the Owls to use the Badgers’ practice facilities.