At Clemson, football goes on despite Florence
University says playing earlier means they can get game in
CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson University is moving forward with plans to host its scheduled football game on Saturday while hurricane Florence wreaks havoc on the Carolinas’ coastline.
The game should go on, despite the region bracing for possible historic flooding and recordsetting rainfall that has forced people to evacuate their homes to escape the wrath of the storm.
School officials reiterated their plans Friday morning, saying the kickoff against Georgia Southern remains set for noon Saturday.
“Clemson Athletics and the University administration continue to monitor the forecast related to hurricane Florence very carefully,” the university statement said. “The safety of fans and the student-athletes from both universities are our top priority.”
But while Clemson officials believe the school and stadium — which are about 400 kilometres from the South Carolina coast — are not in harms way, there has been backlash for what is being viewed by some as a narrow view of the situation.
There have been questions about how safe it can possibly be to have about 80,000 people — many travelling on South Carolina highways to and from the game in what could be rapidly changing conditions — together for football game and placing more demands on already strained state resources.
Instead of the usual 100 to 110 state troopers on hand for the game, there will only be 16.
Clemson (2-0) is the only major conference school from the Carolinas and Virginia playing its scheduled home game on Saturday. Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday and began a trek expected to take it into South Carolina.
No. 13 ranked Virginia Tech, North Carolina and North Carolina State all cancelled home games. Virginia’s home game with Ohio was moved to Nashville, Tenn. Clemson’s state rival less than 240 kilometres east, South Carolina, called off its game Saturday night.
Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner said cancelling his team’s game was the only choice to make. Hotel rooms and resources football fans might have used in Columbia would be freed up for coastal evacuees. Of all the things people might need this weekend, Tanner told 107.5 FM, “a football game wasn’t at the top of the list.”
Clemson’s decision to play a game that is not expected to be competitive — the Tigers are 33 1/2-point favourites — has raised questions about the school’s priorities.
University officials did move up kickoff to noon EST from its planned 3:30 p.m. start and Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich said the earlier start time gives both the teams and the fans time to clear the area before Florence’s effects hit the Clemson-area Saturday night and Sunday.
The National Weather Service forecast calls for just a 20 per cent chance of rain Saturday in the Clemson area, and the chances for rainfall goes up to 70 per cent Saturday night and 90 per cent Sunday. The weather service also has issued a flash flood warning for the area from Saturday morning through Monday.