Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Colleges

Hurricane Irma moves up Saturday start times for USF, Florida, FSU games

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TAMPA — USF and Connecticut agreed Wednesday to move their Saturday kickoff in Hartford — if it kicks off at all — to 10:30 a.m.

The original start time was noon. The earlier start — and a halftime shortened to 15 minutes — is meant to help the Bulls arrive back in Tampa early Saturday evening, presumably before the bay area feels any potentially severe effects from Hurricane Irma.

The game will be on ESPNews.

The Bulls' schedule was one of many across the state's college football landscape to be tweaked with Irma looming.

Florida and Florida State moved the start of their nonconference home games from prime time to noon. Miami canceled Saturday's game at Arkansas State because of the storm and the fact the nonconference opponents had no shared bye week.

"We made the collective decision that we simply cannot put our student-athletes, coaches and staff in danger traveling to and from contests," Miami athletic director Blake James said.

"As we have seen from the tragic impact of Hurricane Harvey — and from (the region of) South Florida's own experiences — the impacts of hurricanes can be devastating and long-lasting, and can make travel extremely difficult and dangerous."

Even with the earlier start, the status of the USF-UConn game still remains mildly in question. In its official statement, UConn said the morning kickoff is "pending any other significant weather changes that impact travel plans for USF."

"For the past several days, I have been monitoring the potential impacts of Hurricane Irma and consulting with our university leadership, outside agencies, the University of Connecticut and the leadership of the American Athletic Conference," USF athletic director Mark Harlan said in a prepared release.

"At this time, based on the current forecast, we believe that we can travel safely to and from Connecticut for the game. We have alternate return plans should conditions deteriorate faster than expected, and we greatly appreciate the University of Connecticut working with us during this time."

Florida's home opener against Division I-AA Northern Colorado will not be televised, but can be streamed on SEC Network Plus, Watch ESPN and the ESPN app. FSU's home opener against Louisiana-Monroe will air on Raycom Sports affiliates.

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said the time move was necessary to allow fans to return home ahead of the storm. UF gave up its team hotel rooms for Friday night and asked fans who won't be using their rooms to do the same.

"We ask everyone to consider their own safety first and the safety of others making any kind of plans this weekend because certainly that's the most important thing," Stricklin told reporters Wednesday.

Stricklin said UF continues to work with Northern Colorado to try to find an alternative to the team's Sunday morning commercial flight home.

FSU also postponed the induction ceremony for its Athletics Hall of Fame to Oct. 20, the day before the Louisville game.

Florida International put off new coach Butch Davis' home opener, scheduled for Saturday, and will now play Alcorn State on Friday in Birmingham, Ala.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com.

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