For the second consecutive year, a hurricane has forced the alteration of the Florida Gators football schedule.
This time, it’s only changing the hour of a kickoff.
Florida and Northern Colorado will kick off their Saturday game at noon, moving it up from 7:30 p.m. Eastern in an effort to “find the best possible solution” to playing the game ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Irma, per an announcement from the Gators on Wednesday.
"We have worked closely with campus and regional authorities during the last 48 hours to find the best possible solution that allows us to play the game and takes into account the safety of our fans, players, staff and personnel working the game," said Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. "With tropical conditions possibly expected in our region on Saturday night or Sunday morning, moving the game from 7:30 to noon will give people a chance to come to the game and return home before any expected weather or effects hit our area."
"We will obviously continue to monitor the weather and we ask fans to consider their own safety and the safety of others before traveling to the game," Stricklin said. "In addition, we also ask that fans who had hotel rooms that will no longer need them, to notify their respective hotels immediately as those establishments are looking to house evacuees from around the state and region."
What was once a telecast scheduled for the SEC Network, however, will become a streaming broadcast exclusive to SEC Network+ and available through WatchESPN and the ESPN app — effectively moving the game from television to the Internet.
Overnight parking will not be available on Florida’s campus on Saturday night.
Irma’s approach is apparently not going to dramatically affect the Gators’ athletic calendar. Florida will play a scheduled soccer game on Friday against Florida State and volleyball matches on Friday and Saturday that are part of the Active Ankle Challenge in Gainesville this weekend, but will not play a Sunday night soccer match against USF. Florida’s cross country team will participate in a rescheduled meet at North Florida on Thursday.
Irma, a powerful Category 5 hurricane that is among the strongest in recorded history, is currently forecast to approach and/or make landfall in South Florida late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, but is unlikely to produce tropical conditions in Gainesville until late Saturday.
In 2016, Florida’s critical mid-October clash with LSU was infamously cancelled, and then later rescheduled, thanks to the approach of Hurricane Matthew, which skirted the east coast of Florida after days of forecasts suggesting it could make landfall in the state.