Hurricane Irma kept Florida State and Miami on the sideline this week — and will do so again next weekend.
The powerful storm has already forced the postponement of the annual Seminoles-Hurricanes showdown, which was scheduled to be played on Florida State’s campus in Tallahassee on Sept. 16.
The game is now set for Oct. 7, which was supposed to be an off week for both teams.
“It quickly became clear that it was in the best interest of our players, coaches and fans to reschedule next week’s Miami at Florida State game,” Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford said. “Typically, it’s not easy to reschedule games, but in this instance, there was a clear path to adjust quickly and effectively.”
The switch also forced another tweak: Miami’s home game with Georgia Tech has been pushed back from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14, at the Hurricanes’ request.
“I appreciate the job the league did in addressing the situation and the position Georgia Tech took in supporting this change,” Miami athletic director Blake James said.
Miami’s campus is closed until at least Tuesday. FSU’s is closed through Friday.
Meteorologists predicted Irma’s center would blow ashore in the low-lying Florida Keys, then hug the state’s west coast, plowing into the Tampa Bay area by Monday morning. But virtually the entire state will feel some effect from the massive storm.
The worst of Irma was just starting to arrive in Florida on Saturday, but the storm has already created big problems for sports teams all around the state. Florida, Florida State and Central Florida cancelled their home games this weekend; Miami and South Florida weren’t able to go play their road games. Florida International played a neutral-site game in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday and Florida Atlantic played at Wisconsin on Saturday.
FIU and FAU still aren’t sure when they’re coming home. For now, both are displaced.
“I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any distractions,” FAU quarterback Daniel Parr, a South Floridian, said after the Owls lost 31-14 to the ninth-ranked Badgers. “We’re concerned about our families and whether they’re going to be safe or not. We had to come here and it was our responsibility to focus on the game and play well. I think we did that for the most part.”
FAU athletic director Patrick Chun said returning Monday is a possibility, and thanked Wisconsin for offering to host the Owls for as long as they need. But Owls coach Lane Kiffin also pointed out that some thought the game shouldn’t be played.
“At one point I thought we weren’t coming,” Kiffin said. “Our players didn’t want to come because there’s a lot of players not wanting to leave their families. You’ve got kids coming into the office saying, ‘Coach I know it’s a football game but I’m really the only one to take care of my grandma. We don’t know what’s coming.’ But there was a decision made to come play.”
FIU linebacker Anthony Wint played Friday night while he was unsure where his mother was. Somewhere between Miami and Georgia was his guess; all he knew was she was leaving in an effort to get as far away from Irma as Florida roadways jam-packed by other evacuees would allow.
For three hours Friday night, he managed to block out the distraction. He led FIU in tackles, and the Panthers held off Alcorn State 17-10.
“All our coaches said what we had to do was just keep it simple,” Wint said Saturday from FIU’s temporary home in Birmingham, where about 200 athletes from eight of the school’s teams are seeking shelter from the storm. “We just had to lock down for three hours. Win the game, then focus on everything else.”
Wint’s family is fine. He doesn’t know when his mother is going home — and for that matter, he doesn’t know when he’s going home.
“There were distractions,” FIU coach Butch Davis said. “But I really truly believe once we got to Birmingham, we realized the only thing we had any control over was how we would play in the game. The kids were excellent at compartmentalizing.”
The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won’t play Sunday; the Dolphins are already in California to get ready for a Sept. 17 game with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Jacksonville Jaguars will play at Hurricane Harvey-hit Houston on Sunday, and aren’t planning to leave for home before Monday. The Florida Panthers have a contingent of players and staff riding out the storm in Boston. Dozens of high school and college games were called off.
And the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t going home after their weekend series in Boston ends Sunday; they’re off to New York, where they’ll be the home team against the Yankees — playing at Citi Field, the New York Mets‘ ballpark.
Players from the Red Sox, Rays, Panthers and Boston Bruins will help run a collection for Irma relief at Fenway Park before and during the Red Sox-Rays game on Sunday.
“It’s going to be very eerie on Sunday when, if it’s projected to hit at that point, that we’re in the middle of playing a ballgame,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I’m not sure how people will deal with it. We’ll find a way to deal with it, but I think a lot of our thoughts will be back at home with our community.”