"This storm is a significant issue in this state, certainly in this community," said UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley. "Our thoughts and prayers are going to go in toward everybody who may be impacted by a storm we haven't seen in this area in a long, long time."
After deliberating for the last few days, the SEC made the announcement on Thursday afternoon.
“We had a very productive phone call today with a great spirit of cooperation between the universities’ presidents and athletics directors and it became clear that the University of Florida could neither host nor travel to a game this weekend considering the circumstances,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “The developments of the hurricane in the last 24 hours, the projected magnitude of its impact and the unknown aftermath of this storm have resulted in this decision to seek another date to play the LSU-Florida game. We have to be sensitive to the possible imminent disruption to the state of Florida and in particular the Gainesville and surrounding area.”
"I commend commissioner Sankey on this decision. Not an easy one. A tough one. A lot went into it," added Foley in his press conference.
According to Foley, all parties have been in conversation since Tuesday, and on Wednesday he believed this game would be able to go as scheduled. However, as Matthew's track moved westward, the game looked less likely to happen.
"This is a very, very significant event, and it made it impossible to play this football game here in Gainesville on Saturday and Sunday. To put on a football game of this magnitude and the number of people that come into Gainesville, it's an extraordinary amount of people. Certainly emergency personnel, police, ticket-takers, ushers, you name it. Those resources were not going to be available to us. Every police department in the area indicated to us that their resources would be deployed elsewhere, as did emergency medical people...You could not play a game under those circumstances, nor would you want to. As I said, this is potentially catastrophic event for the state and public resources need to be employed where they’re most needed."
According to a number of LSU reports, the Tigers offered Florida a chance to play the game in Baton Rouge, assisting in transportation and accommodations for the Gators. Although Foley was grateful LSU offered Tiger Stadium as a venue, traveling to Louisiana was not an option.
"To try to put a road trip together of 150-plus people in a day and half, not knowing the condition of the roads, not knowing the conditions of the airports, trying to get equipment out there, again, not in the best interest of safety, not in the best interest of people that would be involved in that trip," he said. "At the end of the day we make these decisions based on what matters, and people’s safety is what matters.
Although Baton Rouge and Gainesville were mentioned as options for Saturday's game, no other venue was examined.
"Regardless, the same set of factors apply," said Foley. "The resources in Gainesville are overstressed already. You aren't going to put your team on the road and still have the same issue about traveling equipment trucks through this kind of weather. Traveling a team without any security because security forces are being deployed where they should be deployed. Would there be gas for the busses? Could you get busses? There’s so many unknowns and you cannot plan and hope that come Sunday this would all work out.
"We have a responsibility to our team and to our coaches as well. That just wasn’t something that we were willing to do.”
The SEC was careful to mention this is not a cancellation but a postponement, with both school and the league still deciding on the next course of action.
“We told the league we’re 100 percent committed to whatever scenario they can come up with," said Foley. "I know Greg Sankey and Mark Womack are probably working on that right now. Whatever scenario they come up with we’re going to be in favor of. We want to play the football game. This is not about not wanting to play the football game, as you all know. So whatever scenario that is brought up to us, that makes it work, that they think is workable, the University of Florida is going to be in favor of that.”
One possible date for the game is Nov. 19th. LSU is set to host South Alabama, while the Gators is hosting Presbyterian.
“I told this to the Commissioner and I told this to LSU; 100 percent behind whatever scenario they can come up with that allows this game to be played. If the 19th is one of those days that allows it to work the Gators will be there and LSU will be there."
If the Gators and the Tigers were to decide on the 19th as a possible make up date, Florida would have a half a million dollar buyout. But if the game cannot be rescheduled this could cause some shift in the SEC standings. Foley says that is something the school and the SEC will approach when necessary.
"The league will be the leader in those conversations. They'll be the leader in providing scenarios and I'm sure athletic directors will vote on that at some point in time, or presidents, but again on the importance list of today, that's not very high on the list.
"We have players on our team whose families are being impacted by what's potentially going to happen here. Gainesville is going to have some issues I believe in terms of rain and wind based on the forecast that we've been told, so you go on the road and back here, you may have staff people or players or what have you with families that have electricity, at the end of the day, it boils down to 'What are we trying to do here?' It goes back to what I said earlier. We are going to make sure people are safe. We're going to make sure we do the right things for the right reasons."