No. 23 Tennessee is set to take on No. 24 Florida in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). There was a chance that the Gators’ first home game of the season would have been moved. Hurricane Irma swept through Florida over the weekend, and the University of Florida was hit pretty hard.
On Tuesday, the SEC released the following statement that the game would be played as scheduled:
“The University of Florida has been diligent in assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Gainesville community and has made a thoughtful decision in moving forward with the game,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “We appreciate the communication, coordination and cooperation among the many agencies and groups necessary to produce a game in a safe environment. Our prayers remain with the people of Florida as well as Texas as they recover from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.”
That’s despite the following:
E-mail from the University of Florida to employees notes that Lake Alice has overflowed. You guys know what lives in Lake Alice, right?— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) September 11, 2017
Lake Alice, which lies on the southwest end of campus, is filled with alligators.
Lake Alice by Village Dr pic.twitter.com/jaRLCyTZTM— UF Public Safety (@UFPublicSafety) September 11, 2017
There are also multiple trees down on campus.
Parts of two major roadways that lead into Gainesville (University and SR 26) are also closed due to flooding and debris, and there are high waters throughout Gainesville and on parts of campus.
Flooding on the corner of 34th and University is pretty bad. Some cars parked in the Westgate lot are sitting in a few inches of water. pic.twitter.com/f5VhoU0lDa— Meryl Kornfield (@MerylKornfield) September 11, 2017
High waters around Baughman pic.twitter.com/ChMha8DM4Z— UF Public Safety (@UFPublicSafety) September 11, 2017
Florida’s home game last weekend against Northern Colorado was canceled due to Hurricane Irma. My colleague Richard Johnson spoke with Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin about how these decisions are made:
The big decision: Keep the game in Gainesville at the original time? Move it earlier in the day? Move it to another site? Or nix it entirely?
Friday night in Gainesville wouldn’t work because the school wanted to free up as many hotels as possible. The team even gave up the hotel it usually stays in for home games.
Florida never got far enough down the road to make calls to cities like Jacksonville or Atlanta about playing there. Jacksonville wasn’t studied for too long because it is also in the path of the storm.
But there is one call Florida did make, in the name of due diligence.
“I actually called Jay Jacobs at Auburn, the AD at Auburn — they’re at Clemson this weekend — just to say, ‘Would your stadium be available?’ and he was open to it,” Stricklin said. “He was, ‘Absolutely, let me know how we could help,’ and we told him just to sit tight and don’t contact anybody. And in our internal talks, we decided that didn’t make any sense. We were just poking around at all the options, to make sure you flesh everything out.”
Auburn’s only about a five-hour drive from Gainesville.
There’s precedent for a move like that. LSU had its home opener moved from Houston to New Orleans in about six days’ time due to Harvey. FIU and Georgia Southern moved their Week 2 games to Birmingham, Ala.
Atlanta was a predicted destination if the game was to be moved, but in the end decision makers were comfortable leaving the game in Florida.