The SEC continued to monitor the Hurricane Irma recovery efforts in the Gainesville area on Monday and want to be certain the school and the city has adequate resources available for Saturday’s scheduled game between the Florida Gators and Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
UF had to cancel its game against Northern Colorado on Saturday. Florida State cancelled its game against Louisiana-Monroe and next week’s home game against Miami was moved to Oct. 7, an open date the two teams had in common.
“Now that the storm has passed through Gainesville, the University of Florida is working with local authorities to assess the effect of the storm on the campus and the Gainesville community, at the same time ensuring the appropriate security and local officials are available to host a game,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement.
Flordia athletic director Scott Stricklin tweeted on Monday: “UF coaches report that all @FloridaGators student-athletes are safe & accounted for post-Irma. Assessment of campus impact still ongoing.”
Stricklin has earlier tweeted that the game’s status wouldn’t be addressed until after the storm had cleared and an assessment could be made of issues such as power and safety of players, staff and their families.
When last year’s game against LSU was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew, the issue wasn’t the weather in Gainesville the following weekend (it was sunny Saturday, Sunday and Monday). It was the fact that so much of the law enforcement and first responder community in the city and Alachua County fanned out to harder-hit areas such as Flagler and Volusia Counties, and UF did not have enough for security, crowd control and first aid for a football game with 90,000 fans.
Re-scheduling the Tennessee game will be problematic because the two teams don’t share a common off date. Moving the game to Nov. 18, the date of the Gators’ non-conference game against Alabama-Birmingham, and buying out UAB is not an option because Tennessee is playing LSU that day.
One possibility is delaying the SEC championship game for one week, if UF or UT have a chance to win the SEC East. The title game is scheduled for Dec. 2.
In the meantime, the SEC announced that Florida’s game at Kentucky on Sept. 23 will be a night kickoff, at 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.