For the second time in three years, Charleston Southern’s football schedule has been affected by a hurricane. Only this year, the Buccaneers won't have to cancel a game.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of a game between CSU and S.C. State. This week, CSU’s first-ever game against South Carolina was put in jeopardy as Hurricane Dorian threatened the S.C. coast and prompted a mandatory evacuation in Charleston and surrounding counties.
But thanks to cooperation from USC’s athletic department, the game will go on as planned Saturday with a noon kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
With CSU’s campus closed because of the evacuation, the Buccaneers were forced off campus to continue preparations for Saturday’s game. But the process wasn't easy.
CSU needed 68 hotel rooms for the entire week, which turned out to be impossible to find in Columbia. CSU athletic director Jeff Barber was able to arrange accommodations for the traveling party in Charlotte. The team arrived there Monday night and has been traveling to Columbia daily to practice at USC.
USC also is feeding the team lunch and dinner and allowing use of the stadium and other facilities for film and meetings. The payout to CSU for playing the game is $400,000.
“I cannot express enough my gratitude and appreciation to (USC athletic director) Ray Tanner for his willingness to make this entire week as painless as possible,” Barber said. “It’s certainly not an ideal situation for our team, but USC has done everything possible to assist our team in getting ready to play a game on Saturday. Under the circumstances we are very happy with how things have worked out.”
First-year CSU head coach Autry Denson said his team has managed to stay focused despite the distractions.
“Our players are doing a phenomenal job,” Denson said. “They have embraced the situation and have bonded together to make the most of it. We are blessed to be able to still play this game and we appreciate that fact. When you see pictures of what has happened in the Bahamas, we realize how fortunate we are.”
Denson, like Barber, said the cooperation by USC has been above and beyond.
“Taking care of others is more important than any football game, and South Carolina has really done everything they can to make this a workable situation for our team,” the coach said. “I am confident that we will be ready to compete with a God-honored effort and a God-honored attitude."
The Buccaneers have never beaten an SEC team and have played games at Florida (twice), Georgia, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State. A 21-20 loss at Vanderbilt in 2014 was the closest game against an SEC opponent.
CSU opened the season Saturday with a 46-13 loss at Furman. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Chambers threw for 192 yards but CSU allowed nearly 400 yards rushing to the Paladins.
“We did a lot of good things, but we understand we have a lot to work on,” Denson said. “We are working on CSU right now. It’s 12 one-game seasons, and the focus for us is to make sure we continue to do things better. Saturday is our next one-game season.”