Florida, USF, South Carolina move home games ahead of Ian

Sep 27, 2022, 2:55 PM | Updated: 3:36 pm
South Florida head coach Jeff Scott, left, and Florida head coach Billy Napier greet each other at ...

South Florida head coach Jeff Scott, left, and Florida head coach Billy Napier greet each other at midfield before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida, South Carolina and South Florida took steps Tuesday to salvage home football games as Hurricane Ian approaches.

The Gators moved their game against Eastern Washington from Saturday to Sunday at noon. The Gamecocks will host South Carolina State on Thursday night, two days earlier than previously scheduled. And the Bulls relocated their Saturday game against East Carolina from Tampa, Florida, to Boca Raton.

Stetson canceled its home game against San Diego scheduled for Saturday in the Pioneer Football League.

No. 23 Florida State and 22nd-ranked Wake Forest, meanwhile, are “closely monitoring” the storm and hoping to play as planned Saturday in Tallahassee.

“As always, the safety of the student-athletes, game staff and fans will be our top priority,” FSU athletic director Michael Alford said.

Florida will play on a Sunday in the Swamp for the first time in school history. The Gators played one previous Sunday afternoon: the 1977 Sun Bowl, a 37-14 loss to Texas A&M.

Impending hurricanes have led the Gators to postpone previous games later into seasons. Hurricane Charley postponed the 2004 opener against Middle Tennessee State, and Hurricane Matthew postponed a 2016 visit from LSU.

Hurricane Ian now gets added to the list. The storm is expected to hit the state’s southwest coast Wednesday. It tore into western Cuba on Tuesday as a major hurricane, with nothing to stop it from intensifying into a catastrophic Category 4 storm before it hits Florida, where officials ordered 2.5 million people to evacuate before it crashes ashore Wednesday.

Universities across the state closed campuses for the week. But football is big business and a much-needed revenue source for many. Playing the game guarantees Eastern Washington $750,000, a significant payday for a school with an athletic budget around $17.5 million.

South Carolina State also relies on its “paycheck game” from South Carolina.

“There’s no perfect plan, but we’re trying to put together the best thing for our team at this moment,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.

The Gamecocks last moved a game due to weather in 2016, playing a scheduled Saturday game on Sunday.

The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers relocated their football operations to the Miami area Tuesday in preparation for Sunday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Buccaneers are expected to practice at the Dolphins’ training complex in Miami Gardens starting Wednesday. So far, there has been no change to the that game, which is scheduled for Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

“We are not discussing any potential (relocation) sites,” the NFL said in a statement Wednesday. “We continue to monitor the storm and are in constant communication with the clubs and local authorities. Decision could be made as late as Friday.”

Also in Tampa, the Rays have other concerns besides clinching an AL wild-card berth. As they opened a three-game series in Cleveland, players and coaches were keeping an eye on the impending hurricane. The Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area was last directly hit by a hurricane in 1921.

“Watching the news, watching the computer,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I know the Bay area has been pretty fortunate over many, many years now, but just thinking about everybody there and hopefully people have done right to prepare and wherever it goes, it doesn’t hit as hard as the speculation.”

Meanwhile, the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning postponed preseason games scheduled to be played at home Wednesday against Carolina and Thursday against Nashville.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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              Florida head coach Billy Napier watches his team during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Tennessee, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
            
              South Florida head coach Jeff Scott, left, and Florida head coach Billy Napier greet each other at midfield before an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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Florida, USF, South Carolina move home games ahead of Ian