As a tangible measure of gratitude to the first responders who remained mostly indefatigable during Hurricane Irma, Charlie Strong and the Bulls want to deliver them a victory.
On the house.
Strong said Tuesday that all first responders and their families (up to four people per party) will be admitted free Friday night when the No. 22 Bulls host the Fighting Illini at Raymond James Stadium. So will the players and coaches of any high school football team in the state, most of whom have had another weekend of games wiped out by the effects of Hurricane Irma.
"It's all about who's been impacted by the storm," said Strong, whose team held its first post-Irma practice Tuesday afternoon.
"You want (to win) because now we have a way to give back to the community and give back in a really good way, where they have a chance to watch our football team."
First responders, or a family member if the responder is working, must provide their official issued ID (or a copy if the responder is not present) at the Raymond James Stadium south plaza will-call ticket window on Friday evening.
Florida prep football teams wishing to attend should contact Mike Giglio (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lacey King (email@example.com) of the USF football program for step-by-step instructions on obtaining admission.
Pre-registration is necessary for the complimentary admission. Requests must be received by noon on Friday.
Further information is available at gousfbulls.com.
Strong opened his regular Tuesday news conference by praising everyone — from city officials to police officers to firefighters to shelter volunteers — who helped the community during the hurricane and in its aftermath.
Strong spent most of the weekend at the football offices in the Selmon Center (which never lost power) and invited players still in town to join him at the facility. He said he hadn't spoken with every player, but none had mentioned any major damage to their families' homes.
"I wake up every day, and my world is just centered around football," he said. "But what we went through the last few days just put everything in perspective. And it's more than just football, it's about us just coming together as a community."
UF-Tennessee is on
The Florida-Tennessee game will go on as planned Saturday in Gainesville. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"The University of Florida has been diligent in assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Gainesville community and has made a thoughtful decision in moving forward with the game," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement.
UF announced that fans should expect increased congestion and traffic before the game due to continued storm cleanup, coupled with a capacity crowd.
Reserved and RV parking lots will be operational. The school expects current road closures on Museum Road by Lake Alice to be operational.
AROUND THE NATION: Oklahoma State redshirt freshman linebacker Brendan Vaughn was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to distribute within 2000 feet of a school and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. … Minnesota named Conor Rhoda the full-time starting quarterback. Also, quarterback Demry Croft will not be with the team Saturday against Middle Tennessee State due to disciplinary issues.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.