COLUMBIA, S.C. – Ray Tanner finally returned to his office Friday for the first time since Tuesday.
The South Carolina athletic director spent the past few days working along with university president Harris Pastides to reach a decision regarding South Carolina’s football game with Georgia. It did so Thursday night, electing to play at 2:30 p.m. Sunday instead of the original Saturday night kickoff.
“We are immersed into this,” Tanner said on 107.5 Friday afternoon. “It’s not one of those deals where you get together and you sort it out. We have literally been together since Tuesday around the clock, well into the evening to try to get to a place that is right. Is it perfect? It’s not going to be. You’re going to get criticized.
“We are still dealing with this weather event. We tried to consider everything possible to make a decision that is right for everybody, to try to play the game and try to make sure that we never lose sight of what is most important. That’s the safety of all people. As our governor (Nikki Haley) has mentioned so many times, protecting the citizens of South Carolina and getting them evacuated from the coast.”
The decision took many conversations with SEC officials and the University of Georgia with Hurricane Matthew approaching. Tanner praised Georgia athletic director Greg McGarrity and president Jere Morehead for being “extremely cooperative” through the process.
Tanner also said the SEC conference was “heavily involved” in the decision-making process.
“The encouragement is to play the game,” Tanner said. “Is it delivered to us in a way that the game is more important than people’s safety and the circumstances we are dealing with? Absolutely not. That never enters the picture. But if you can play the game in some capacity, whether it’s where it was scheduled or you go have to go somewhere else or change sites, that is always discussed.”
Tanner said the possibility of moving the game to a different venue was discussed. On Friday, McGarrity said Georgia offered Sanford Stadium as an option.
Another piece of the discussion was making sure the necessary staffing was available. Governor Haley said earlier in the week the state would not be able to provide state troopers to assist. Richland Country and sheriff Leon Lott were involved in the process to help provide the manpower to help game day run as close to normal as possible.
“We are hopeful that we are in a very good situation on Sunday, especially weather-wise, which makes travel a little bit easier on everybody,” Tanner said. “We will see where that goes. We will do everything we can to keep it a normal game day experience.”
Time and time again during his radio interview, Tanner emphasized the No. 1 subject was the safety of South Carolina and its residents. That was behind the long wait for a decision and Tanner said USC waited as long as it possible could before setting a game time.
More information regarding the game day operations should be available Friday afternoon.
“We are still working through Hurricane Matthew right now to assess what can happen as we go forward,” Tanner said. “It’s one of those things that you monitor and take it very seriously and you try to be prepared and make a decision that is best for everybody. … We invested the time, the effort and we had the leadership to try to get us in the right position.”