The Florida Gators will host the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday, September 16 at 3:30 p.m. in Gainesville on CBS — just as was scheduled months ago — despite the effects of Hurricane Irma, Florida announced in conjunction with the SEC on Tuesday.
Rivals reporter Jesse Simonton broke the news minutes before the SEC’s announcement.
"While we know how important it is for this campus and the Gainesville community to host a game, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those that have been impacted by the storm, and we are thankful for the support Floridians have received during this time," said Athletic Director Scott Stricklin.
"After meeting with the City of Gainesville, campus officials and numerous staffing entities to discuss hosting the game, we are pleased that the Florida-Tennessee football game will take place in Gainesville Saturday as scheduled. There has been a tremendous amount of cooperation between local authorities, the Southeastern Conference and the Tennessee athletic program throughout this process and we are grateful for these strong partnerships."
"The University of Florida has been diligent in assessing the impact of Hurricane Irma on the Gainesville community and has made a thoughtful decision in moving forward with the game," said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. "We appreciate the communication, coordination and cooperation among the many agencies and groups necessary to produce a game in a safe environment. Our prayers remain with the people of Florida as well as Texas as they recover from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey."
"We appreciate the communication from both our friends in Gainesville and the conference office as this assessment was made," said John Currie, Tennessee Director of Athletics. "Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Irma and other recent storms throughout the SEC footprint, and we're grateful for the opportunity to travel to Florida this weekend."
Florida cancelled last weekend’s scheduled home opener against Northern Colorado in advance of Hurricane Irma, which wreaked havoc in virtually every region of the Sunshine State over the last few days. While Gainesville’s impacts were largely felt on Monday morning as the weakened storm pushed into north central Florida, and were likely less significant than impacts felt closer to the storm’s landfalls in the Florida Keys and southwest Florida and in places that took significant wind and storm surge damage on Florida’s coasts, the cancellation likely allowed evacuees to stay in Gainesville hotels and use the city as a waystation to other points in ways that would not have been possible had Florida attempted to stage its season opener — which the program originally pushed up from a night game to a nooner before ultimately cancelling it.
With few concrete details about Irma’s impacts on Gainesville and Florida known as the storm passed through, speculation ran rampant that multiple options were available for Florida and Tennessee to play on the coming Saturday, including the notion that the game could be moved to Atlanta. In the warm light of day, that speculation appears to have been premature at best — though Florida’s release cautions that fans “should expect increased congestion and traffic” due to cleanup efforts.
This will be Florida’s first home opener against Tennessee in program history, and also the first Florida home opener against an SEC opponent since 1989 — when Ole Miss beat Florida, 24-19, in the Gators’ season opener, producing the last Florida loss in a season opener prior to 2017’s defeat at the hands of Michigan.