The status of Saturday's home game between No. 18 Florida and LSU is still up in the air as of 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The lone certainty in the uncertainty: The Southeastern Conference will make the final decision.
Should the game be delayed or postponed, it would mark the first time since the 2004 season that a Florida football game was affected by a hurricane, when the season opener against Middle Tennessee State pushed back to mid-November because of Hurricane Frances. It’s also the first time that a Florida-LSU football was postponed since 1964.
“Here’s one thing I think that we lose sight of. I mean, this is something that could be devastating,” UF coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday. “It’s already been devastating in other countries, right? And we get so wrapped up in the importance of an SEC game on a Saturday, and yet my feelings, when you get a chance to actually sit back and maybe take a breath, are first responders that have to be on top of it.”
It’s a move that would be supported by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who wrote a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday urging Scott to intervene and make UF change either the time or location of the game.
“UF’s decision endangers the safety and well-being of not only the players of UF and LSU, but also the fans, coaching staff, stadium workers, police, emergency medical technicians, and a host of other people who will have to travel to and stay in Gainesville if this game is held there,” Vitter wrote. “... Unless you and the UF Athletic staff want to end up on a segment of ESPN’s ‘C’mon Man,’ I urge you to work with the Athletic Department at UF to reconsider hosting this weekend’s game in Gainesville.”
Alachua County is expected to feel the brunt of Hurricane Matthew on Friday, at which point it is expected to be a Category 4 storm. Tropical storm force winds (39 mph) are expected to be felt in Gainesville starting around 11 a.m. Friday and continuing until 5 a.m. Saturday, according to a press release from the city. There is also an 80-percent chance that winds could reach up to 58 mph by 5 p.m. Friday and will last until about 11 p.m. Friday.