ATHENS, Ga. — Football can wait another week after all.
Sanford Stadium will be quiet on Saturday instead of the site of a Georgia-Houston game. Less than 48 hours before Saturday's scheduled kickoff, Georgia received word that Southeastern Conference games would be postponed.
With Georgia (1-1 overall, 0-1 SEC) already off on next Saturday, Sept. 22, it now will have a three-week gap between last Saturday's loss to South Carolina and its Sept. 29 home game against Arkansas.
Players who on Wednesday applauded the SEC's decision to press on with this weekend's game were disappointed with the about-face from the league Thursday. Even so, it was difficult for anyone to argue with the need for an appropriate time of mourning in the nation.
"After we had a night to think about it and reflect, I think a lot of our feelings changed,'' said receiver Damien Gary. "It's a disappointment, but it gives us time to think about the people who are lost in the tragedy.''
Athletics director Vince Dooley said he hopes to reschedule the Georgia-Houston game. Though Georgia is off on Sept. 22, Houston will play Texas that day. Georgia also is off on Nov. 3, but Houston plays at South Florida that day.
The SEC Championship game is scheduled for Dec. 1, but it is possible that game could be pushed back one week, enabling conference teams to make up games at the end of the regular season.
If the Georgia-Houston game is not rescheduled, then Georgia stands to lose $975,000 from its budget — its projected revenue from the home game after paying Houston $400,000.
Fans with tickets to the Georgia-Houston game are instructed to keep the tickets for the rescheduled date. If the game cannot be rescheduled, then Georgia will release information on refunds.
On this week, however, such matters as budgets and refunds are secondary considerations.
Coach Mark Richt supported Wednesday's decision by the SEC but agreed Thursday that it would not be appropriate to play this weekend.
"I would think the country in general has been in shock the last couple of days, and usually after the shock of something like this wears off it's time to mourn,'' Richt said. "I think that's probably where this whole country is right now, so I think it's the right thing to do.''
Richt said the good part of the timing of the postponement is that his team had almost a full week to prepare for the Houston game. That at least enabled the players to move past the disappointment of the 14-9 loss to South Carolina.
"We were preparing, working for an opponent,'' Richt said. "I think psychologically that was good for us.''
The SEC's decision came after the NFL announced it was postponing its games Sunday and Monday. Baseball also called off its games this weekend.
"I think what the SEC decided to do was the right thing to do in lieu of a lot of other things that happened today as far as other people canceling and things like that,'' Richt said.
"I think that the original decision (to play this weekend) was a good one. I was in agreement with it. I think the intent of the league was to try to fall in line with what the president of the United States said as far as trying to get back to normalcy as quick as possible. I also think there's a time and a purpose for everything. I think there is probably a time to mourn what's been going on.''
Said Dooley: "I realize that some have been vocal in their objections to playing; however, many also felt as we did that the games should be held as scheduled.''
Dooley repeated his belief that playing this weekend would have been supporting the stated desire of President Bush in " ‘not allowing this event to change our way of life or restrict our freedoms.' ''
Added Richt: "I do also believe that by the end of the weekend it is time to go back to work, it is time to go back to what is considered normal in America. We don't need to live in fear and we don't need to stay down.''
Charles Odum can be reached via e-mail at CEOdum@aol.com.