LSU's game against the Florida Gators scheduled for Saturday has been postponed, the school confirmed, as Hurricane Matthew barrels toward Florida.
The SEC and both schools "will work to reschedule" it later in 2016, a statement from the league said, but that seems unlikely. The schools don't share an open date.
LSU and Florida were scheduled to play at 11 a.m. CT Saturday in Gainesville.
Officials from both schools and the SEC office conducted a conference call Thursday to ultimately decide. The parties have communicated since Tuesday about the threat Matthew posed.
LSU offered to host the game Saturday or, even, Sunday, said Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley. That would have been "impossible," Foley said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"To try to put a road trip together of 150 people in a day and half ... not in the best interest of safety," he said.
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LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said the Tigers also offered to host the game on Monday.
Neutral site locations weren't discussed, Foley said. The only option was playing at the originally scheduled site, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, made that impossible.
"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,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “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."
The SEC office will make every effort to find a scheduling solution with the possible movement of other games on the schools’ schedules, a statement from the league said. Before deciding to postpone the game, the schools and SEC explored other dates and location options, and LSU offered to either travel or host the game over the course of the weekend, the statement said.
Foley said after speaking to SEC earlier Thursday he felt there "was a very, very good chance we'd play Saturday."
Ultimately it was determined that the likelihood of damage from the storm, lack of available emergency personnel and the uncertainty of the impact of the storm on people, facilities and travel necessitated a postponement, the league said in a statement.
Many at LSU are considering this a cancellation. It could have a serious impact on the SEC standings, too. If LSU were to win out and finish at 6-1 in the conference, the Tigers would not advance to the SEC championship game over a 7-1 SEC team.
The decision dragged out. The SEC didn't release its statement until Thursday at about 3 p.m. -- less than 48 hours before the two teams were scheduled to play.
"We make these decision on what matters, people's safety is what matters," Foley said. "It took as long as it did because of all the moving parts."
A decision was expected at noon Thursday and then was pushed back to 2 p.m.
Making up the game seems unlikely, several LSU sources confirmed.
The Gators and Tigers don't share a bye week, but they do both play non-conference home games on Nov. 19. LSU hosts South Alabama. Florida hosts Presbyterian Christian.
In order to drop those games, the schools would owe a buyout to the non-conference foes. According to a contract of the game, LSU's buyout for South Alabama $1.5 million. UF's buyout for Presbyterian is $500,000. LSU would also lose the significant revenue that comes with a home game and would play three straight SEC road games in a 12-day span: Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.
Matthew re-strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane Thursday morning, packing maximum sustained winds of 140 miles an hour and moving northwest at 13 mph. The projected path of the storm has it straddling Florida's east coast and takes its center about 100 miles east of Gainesville on Friday afternoon.
The city is expected to receive tropical storm force winds (39 mph), heavy rain and potential power outages from a cyclone that's already ripped through Haiti, barreled through the Bahamas and killed at least 29 people. Gainesville's mayor signed an emergency declaration Thursday for the city, and Florida's governor called for all coastal residents to evacuate inland.
"This is a dangerous storm," Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned. "The storm has already killed people. We should expect the same impact in Florida."
Despite Hurricane Matthew barreling toward Florida, football is still slated to be played in…
Scott said Florida could be looking at its biggest evacuation ever. The schol has canceled classes on Friday. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Florida, too, and Walt Disney World, located in Orlando, closed Thursday, just its fourth closure in 45 years.
Gators officials were adamant against moving the game, LSU President F. King Alexander told The Advocate on Wednesday, a position Florida made clear with a statement Wednesday afternoon: "The game will not be moved out of Gainesville."
That decision has incensed some.
"Urging Fla. Gov to move the #LSUvsUF game. The UF Ath.Dir. is still trying to keep the game in Gainesville," Louisiana Sen. David Vitter tweeted Thursday. "#CmonMan #GeauxTigers #StaySafe."
Vitter sent a letter to Scott urging him to postpone or move the game.
On Thursday as Florida, LSU and Southeastern Conference officials discussed the Tigers vs. G…
The game between the Tigers (3-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) and the No. 18-ranked Gators (4-1, 2-1) was scheduled to be televised on ESPN.
Alexander said Wednesday that LSU had made no preparations to host the game and that those would have needed to begin by Wednesday night.
Despite a 38-28 loss at Tennessee two weeks ago, the Gators are still in the hunt for the SEC East championship. That and the fact the game is sold out were factors in Florida's decision making, Alexander said.
This marks the third time in the past two seasons that an LSU game has been impacted by weather.
Almost exactly one year ago, South Carolina moved its home game with LSU to Tiger Stadium on Oct. 10 because of severe flooding in that state. That decision was made on the Wednesday before the game.
In addition, LSU’s 2015 home opener against McNeese State was canceled because of lightning from a severe thunderstorm. It was the first LSU game canceled since the 1918 season was wiped out by World War I.