It’s game on at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.
The game between LSU and South Carolina will be played to Baton Rouge in the wake of deadly flooding in Columbia, South Carolina, both schools and the Southeastern Conference announced Wednesday.
The game is slated to kick off at 2:30 p.m. in Tiger Stadium TV plans are still to be determined, but the game will be on an ESPN or SEC Network channel.
LSU suite, club seat, season ticket holders and students have until 5 p.m. Thursday to buy tickets. Remaining tickets go on sale to the public at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Fans who purchased tickets to the game in South Carolina will be reimbursed by that school or LSU.
The game will technically be a home game for South Carolina, though LSU will occupy its locker room and its traditional west sideline. South Carolina had already requested that it wear white jerseys for this game, meaning LSU will wear purple jerseys.
South Carolina will keep the ticket revenue and reimburse LSU for its expenses to conduct the game.
Athletic director Joe Alleva said LSU plans to make a donation to South Carolina flood relief and said his goal is for his school to break even financially from hosting the game.
Alleva said LSU will not paint the field South Carolina colors but will play the school’s fight song and its alma mater.
“We want them to feel at home,” Alleva said at a hastily called news conference Wednesday afternoon.
“We’ve been through this in Louisiana,” he said. “We want to help any way we can.”
It’s the first time a game involving an SEC team has been moved because of weather since LSU played its 2005 season opener at Arizona State after Hurricane Katrina. It is also the first time LSU will play a “road” game in 91-year-old Tiger Stadium.
Though South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium was not damaged by the flooding that has plagued the state since the weekend, school officials couldn’t guarantee that police and medical staffing, or drinkable water supplies, would be adequate to support the Southeastern Conference game.
“(Tuesday) we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel classes for the week due to the stress 34,000 students would place on the region’s recovering infrastructure, there is no doubt 85,000 fans would exact the same toll,” University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said in a statement from the school. “In the spirit of supporting our South Carolina community that is so supportive of Gamecock Nation, we have decided to move the game to Baton Rouge. The stress on law enforcement and first responders is too great. Moreover, we’ve had many in the Carolina family directly impacted by the flooding.”
Alleva said he got a call Monday from South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner about the game.
“I could tell from his voice he wouldn’t be calling unless he thought they would have to play here,” Alleva said. “We started our preparations on Monday.”
LSU coach Les Miles said it’s important to make South Carolina feel at home Saturday.
“It’s unfortunate they can’t host the home game in their own stadium,” he said. “Obviously we have a very quality venue and can accommodate the game. I think that is the right thing to do.
“We’re good with it. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. This is a member institution in the SEC. We do everything we can to make sure they’re given every home team advantage.”
Tanner thanked LSU in its efforts to host the game.
“Changing venues on such short notice is no easy task,” Tanner said in a statement. “I would like to thank LSU President F. King Alexander and Athletics Director Joe Alleva for their cooperation and flexibility in working with us to change the site for Saturday’s football game.”
Alleva said the game will be a challenge for LSU to put on as it normally does. LSU senior associate athletic director Eddie Nunez said the game will be staffed at about 75 percent of normal when it comes to stadium concession stand workers.
As a result, LSU will not open Tiger Stadium’s east or south upper decks unless there is enough ticket demand.
Fifteen flood-related deaths in South Carolina have been confirmed so far with numerous dam and bridge failures throughout the Columbia region.
Columbia was troubled by a number of water main breaks caused by the weekend flooding. About 20 inches of rain fell on areas near the city.
Many Columbia residents have been either without water or under a boil-water advisory since the flood damaged the city’s downtown water treatment plant and broke water mains, increasing the possibility of contamination. The latter was one of the issues that led to the game being moved to Baton Rouge.
“On behalf of the South Carolina football team we want to do the right thing and do what is best for all concerned,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “It appears the best thing is to travel to LSU. We look forward to the challenge and competing against the Tigers in Baton Rouge on Saturday.”
LSU went from a two-touchdown favorite at South Carolina to nearly a three touchdown favorite in Baton Rouge.
“Obviously it’s an advantage to their friends and family to watch them in Tiger Stadium,” Miles said of his players. “They also recognize it’s being done for a specific reason. They understand the difficulty their opponent is going through.”
The University of South Carolina canceled classes this week partially because of running water issues. Williams-Brice Stadium is not on campus but south of downtown Columbia, near the state fairgrounds.
South Carolina reportedly reached out to the Carolina Panthers about the prospect of playing at their Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, about 90 minutes north of Columbia.
The Panthers are idle this weekend. However, there were concerns about the availability of hotel rooms in the Charlotte area because of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race there Saturday night and the condition of the stadium’s recently resodded field.
A report surfaced Wednesday morning that Jacksonville, Florida, offered to host the game at its EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and the annual Florida-Georgia game. The possibility of moving the game to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome also came up, but ultimately the decision came down to whether the game would stay in Columbia or move to Baton Rouge.
The No. 7-ranked Tigers are 4-0, 2-0 in SEC play. The Gamecocks are 2-3 and 0-3.
The Tigers lead the all-time series with South Carolina 17-2-1. LSU has won five straight, including a 23-21 victory in Tiger Stadium 2012.
Advocate sportswriter Ross Dellenger contributed to this report.