GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the threat of Hurricane Matthew and how it could potentially affect or disrupt Florida’s game with LSU this Saturday becoming a leading topic of discussion, Gators coach Jim McElwain shared his thoughts.
The university had put out a statement a little while earlier that the game would remain in Gainesville and that a final update on kickoff time would come Thursday at 1 p.m.
Speaking after practice Wednesday night, McElwain said his coaches and players would be ready to adjust to any changes and emphasized that the concerns regarding the weather go well beyond football.
“Here’s one thing I think that we lose sight off — this is something that could be devastating. It’s already been devastating in other countries, right?” McElwain said. “We get so wrapped up in the importance of an SEC game on a Saturday and yet my feelings when you actually get a chance to sit back and maybe take a breath are first responders that have to be on top of it, obviously the possibility of displaced families and those type of things. …
“We’ve got some guys from some areas that could get hit so my initial thought obviously is with them. I guess that’s where the dad in me comes kind of in. Believe it or not, and I know some people will disagree with this, but there are some pretty important things out there in life that don’t concern third-and-6.”
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SEC commissioner Greg Sankey appeared on ESPN’s “The Paul Finebaum Show” Wednesday evening and said the challenge in such a situation is balancing the ever-changing weather maps and unpredictable forecast while also considering the timely need for a decision for all those involved.
“That’s why we need to be careful and wait to see exactly how the storm plays out,” he said. “And it is an important point of attention … the public safety issues, the movement of people. There is a time that has been identified (to make a decision). We will work through this evening and the morning as well, but there does, when you have games out there, have to be a point where you make decisions. You also know that the weather is a dynamic situation and you may have to adjust from time to time.”
He was speaking not only about Florida’s game with LSU but also South Carolina’s home game with Georgia.
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Last year the Gamecocks had a scheduled home game with LSU moved to Baton Rouge, La., due to excessive flooding throughout South Carolina.
Sankey also said there is no obvious contingency plan at this point to reschedule the games.
Florida has a non-conference game with FCS foe Presbyterian on Nov. 19 that would seem a potential target date if the sides were to consider rescheduling as LSU hosts non-conference foe South Alabama that week.
But bringing the Tigers to Gainesville on that weekend instead would mean they end the regular season with three straight road games at Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M. LSU officials will surely not be in favor of that option, one would think.
“One of the rapid activities here is to look fully at our schedule to see if there are alternatives. There don’t appear to be many,” Sankey said. “The focus is on playing these games to the extent it’s possible as scheduled in the location scheduled. That’s always been a focus. But there is a recognition that adjustments have to be made if the circumstances merit.”
Meanwhile, McElwain didn’t really indulge a question about whether Florida was intent on keeping the game in Gainesville rather than considering potentially moving to Baton Rouge, La.
“I mean I know this sounds pretty silly, but it was scheduled for here right? If for some reason it had to go somewhere else, we’d jump on the bus and go. But it’s been on the calendar to play here,” he said.
Ultimately, both teams are in the same situation.
“Whatever it is you just adjust and get ready to go,” McElwain said. “And, you know, the same thing for them. We’re both under the same circumstances.”