Muschamp supported suspension of game


UF coach Will Muschamp said on Monday that game officials made the right decision by suspending play between Idaho and Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.

Rob C. Witzel / Staff photographer
Published: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 4:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 6:58 p.m.

Lingering rain and lightning would have made it almost impossible to finish the Idaho-Florida game Saturday night or early Sunday morning, and the officials made the right decision suspending play, UF coach Will Muschamp said Monday.

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UF coach Will Muschamp said on Monday that game officials made the right decision by suspending play between Idaho and Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.

Rob C. Witzel / Staff photographer

Facts

Click here for a video from Monday's press conference

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Who: Eastern Michigan (1-0) at Florida (0-0)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

“To put things in perspective, between the hours of five o'clock that afternoon and 11 (p.m.), we had 1,100 strikes of lightning within a six-to-eight mile radius of our stadium,” Muschamp said. “We had two-and-a-half inches of rain between five and 11 o'clock and the last strike of lightning within six miles of the stadium was at 12:38 (a.m.)

“It was an issue, not just of the playing conditions of the field — it was awful — but we had lightning all over the place. It was going to be very difficult to be able to get the game in.

“When you get into that situation, once the game starts, the start of that goes to the referees' decision, and the right decision was made. At the end of the day, it comes down to the welfare of the student athlete, and the playing condition issue was not what it needed to be and the lightning was everywhere.”

UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said a decision on the status of the game will be made Tuesday or Wednesday after discussions between the two schools.

Foley said he and his staff went over options Monday, including the possibility of rescheduling the game (both teams have an open date on Oct. 25) or possibly canceling it.

“Obviously, there are a lot of questions out there as it relates to Saturday night's game, what's going on moving forward,” Foley said. “We don't have those answers yet. Obviously, we need to reach out to the University of Idaho. My staff and I met this morning and talked about possible scenarios. Again, when we have the answers we'll give them to you. There's just a lot of different moving parts there.

“We're not trying to be secretive, there's just a lot of different things we have to consider. And we are working through those things as we speak. Obviously, it's Labor Day, so again trying to get all parties together will take a couple days. We'll know something here tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest. I know our fans have a lot of questions, and we'll get answers to you as soon as we can."

Saturday night's scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff was delayed two hours, 48 minutes due to lightning in the area. Once the teams returned, they were only able to get in one play — the opening kickoff — before being sent back to the locker room because more lightning had been detected.

Heavy rain then returned and officials suspended play, citing unsafe playing conditions.

Muschamp said if the officials had tried to wait it out, the game would have been delayed at least twice more (for a minimum of 30 minutes each time) by lightning strikes at about 11:30 p.m. and 12:38 a.m.

“We weren't going to be able to get back on the field. If we were, you had another lightning strike at 12:38, so what were we going to do?” Muschamp said. “It came after I think it was at 11:28 or 11:30, so we would have probably got an hour in and probably would have been off the field again.

“The game, it is what it is. I've never been a part of anything like it. That's what happened and we're all disappointed. Some people are upset, and I certainly understand that. At the end of the day, it comes back to the welfare of the student athlete.”

Muschamp said his players were disappointed they didn't have a chance to play and finish the game Saturday.

“You put in a lot of work and there is a lot of buildup for your opening kickoff,” he said. “Certainly a lot of disappointment and frustration. You just have to tee it up again this Saturday. That's what part of the deal is.”

Valdez Showers, who returned the opening kickoff 64 yards to the Idaho 14-yard line, said the Gators were appreciative of all the fans who waited out the long delay and gave them such a loud and energetic welcome when they took the field for warmups at 9:30 p.m.

“To me, that was really the highlight of the night,” Showers said. “When we came out of the tunnel again and I saw all the fans there, it really shocked me. I know I can speak for the team. That surprised us a lot. We were definitely thankful they were out there supporting us.”

As for what happens to the game, Foley said there are many things to discuss, including possibly resuming the game on the Oct. 25 open date or canceling. The open date falls the Saturday before UF's game with Georgia.

Idaho coach Paul Petrino mentioned Monday the possibility of playing the game at the end of the season, in December.

Foley would not speculate on the ramifications of canceling the game in terms of ticket refunds and other things, or the logistics of rescheduling .

“We're trying to figure out all those things right now,” Foley said. “Again, when we come forward with whatever decision we come forward with, we're going to have answers to everything financially, dates, tickets, reasons, all that sort of things. We're just not there yet.”

In the game contract, Idaho is due to receive a payoff of $975,000 from UF. Foley said Idaho has not been paid yet.

“No, all of our guarantees are due our opponents February 1st of the following season,” he said. “That's when we'll pay Georgia. That's when we'll pay every team that comes in here. That's standard language in our contract.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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