The day after Florida moved up the kickoff of its home-opening football game, the decision was made to cancel Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado because of the threat of Hurricane Irma.
“We have been in constant communication this week with university and government officials,” Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said. “As the hurricane’s track has approached the state of Florida, it’s become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do.
“The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts. There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress. Gainesville is also close to some of Florida’s heaviest traffic points this week, specifically Interstate 75, which is a key statewide evacuation route.”
The game was originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. It was moved up early Wednesday afternoon due to Hurricane Irma.
“I know how disappointed our team is, I know how excited they were to go play this game,” UF coach Jim McElwain said on his radio show. “Our administration, my hat’s off.
“We go through life understanding that it’s not always about us. It’s about other people and what we can give up ourselves for other people. And in this case, with the officials up in Tallahassee. The resources, the the lack of gas. The people exiting and going north, just probably felt like this wasn’t the right thing.
“For us, you know you adjust. And we’ve been through it once. What we’ve got to do is hunker down and give of ourselves for the people in distress and what may occur. And when this passes, get ready to play Tennessee in The Swamp next week.”
A typical Florida football game enlists the services of more than 3,300 working personnel, 17 government agencies and outside vendors who bus employees from Jacksonville and Orlando to Gainesville.
University Athletic Association officials had worked with Northern Colorado to have it charter a flight to Gainesville on Friday, instead of the Bears’ original plans of traveling commercially Thursday to Tampa.
Because the schools do not share a common open date, the game will not be rescheduled.
Ticket refund information will be communicated to those who have purchased tickets to the game, UF said.
It’s the second consecutive season a hurricane has affected UF’s football schedule. Last season’s Florida-LSU game in The Swamp was postponed due to the threat of Hurricane Matthew. The decision to postpone was made after discussions between UF and the Southeastern Conference. The Oct. 8 game was rescheduled for Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge following negotiations between the two schools and the conference.
“Every possible effort was made to play this game, but given circumstances, playing game wasn’t right thing to do. Stay safe, Floridians,” Stricklin later wrote on his Twitter account.
Florida will open its home schedule vs. Tennessee on Sept. 16.