COLUMBIA — Officials in charge of South Carolina’s game hosting Marshall on Saturday have the same view as South Carolina’s citizens watching Hurricane Florence.
“We would try to play the game. I don’t know how easily that would be,” USC athletic director Ray Tanner told The Post and Courier on Tuesday evening. “Our focus right now is on playing the game, and if we get to a point on Thursday where we can’t play, we’ll engage in conversations about what options we may have to play the game on another date.”
The storm has different track projections but no matter where it hits, significant rain and wind will follow. As of Tuesday night, USC is planning on playing at the scheduled 7:30 p.m. Saturday time, and Marshall is planning on flying to Columbia on Friday night. If the Thundering Herd can’t fly, they’ll bus seven hours to Columbia.
Florence is expected to make landfall on Thursday. Tanner said that Thursday afternoon is the deadline to decide on the game.
“We’re being very cautious. We’re very much concerned about the impact, not only here but along the Carolinas coastline,” he said. “The resources that may be necessary on the coast take priority over a football game.”
USC has dealt with serious weather issues before. In 2015, an historic flood in the Midlands forced a USC-LSU home game to be switched to Baton Rouge, La. The Williams-Brice Stadium field was fine, but damage to Midlands and state roads, plus emergency personnel being required elsewhere in the state and a lack of potable water, necessitated the switch.
In 2016, residue from Hurricane Matthew soaked the Midlands and caused slight damage to some signage at Williams-Brice. The Gamecocks postponed their scheduled game with Georgia to the following Sunday.
Tanner confirmed that he and Marshall AD Mike Hamrick did speak about playing the game on Sunday, but as it looks now, there may be worse weather than on Saturday. If the game cannot be played in Columbia on Saturday, all efforts will be made to reschedule the game for this season.
Tanner said he doesn’t foresee moving the game to another venue as a possibility. The game also could not be rescheduled for USC’s Oct. 20 bye week since Marshall is hosting Florida Atlantic that day.
Tanner and USC will be in constant contact with Hamrick, the National Weather Service, the SEC and state and local authorities until the storm hits. Once they get an accurate idea of which way Florence heads, they’ll make a final decision on the game.
Most parts of the plan involve Marshall playing USC at Williams-Brice sometime this season.
“We’re ready to go Saturday night, 7:32 kick. We’re in great hands in this state with Governor (Henry) McMaster and President (Harris) Pastides here at the university and coach Tanner,” coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday. “I’m preparing for a football game.”
USC canceled classes Tuesday and will remain closed until further notice. Players with families affected by the storm and McMaster’s evacuation of coastal counties are being taken care of.
Receiver Bryan Edwards, from Conway, confirmed Tuesday his family is on the way to Columbia. “My family’s tough,” he said. “We’ve always been tough, so we’re not worried about it.”
Muschamp said that USC is working with other players’ families that are affected to get them here and out of harm’s way.