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LSU at Florida game postponed as Hurricane Matthew nears

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No. 18 Florida’s home game against LSU has been postponed because of looming and powerful Hurricane Matthew, which already has been blamed for more than 100 deaths and is threatening the southeastern U.S. coast.

The Florida-LSU game was to be played Saturday. The teams were unable to agree on any alternative arrangements to play the game elsewhere this weekend, and the Southeastern Conference said they would try to reschedule – though that seems unlikely since the Gators and Tigers do not have a common open date left this season.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said the SEC made the final call on postponing the game.

”I know there will be a lot of opinions about how we came to this conclusion and when we came to the conclusion, but this is the right decision,” Foley said.

A decision was also likely Thursday regarding the status of Saturday night’s Georgia at South Carolina game. And the game that sends No. 23 Florida State to No. 10 Miami is still on as scheduled for Saturday night – though officials from both schools say they are continuing to monitor developments and are discussing contingency plans.

Florida State originally planned to fly to Miami on Thursday evening; the Seminoles now plan to make the trip south on Friday, storm permitting. Miami moved into its home-game hotel ahead of schedule, in part because its campus was closed Thursday and Friday and all classes were canceled.

”Our hope is to be able to play at Hard Rock Stadium,” Miami athletic director Blake James said. ”Obviously, things can happen that prohibit that.”

The metro Miami area was not expected to feel the brunt of the storm, which was on a path taking its center farther up the Florida coast.

But there are several things to assess before deciding if the Miami-FSU game could and should go on as scheduled, namely if it’s safe for fans to be on the roads and if police – who will likely be needed in storm-ravaged areas – would be able to assist with traffic and other matters related to what will likely be a capacity crowd.

Those questions likely cannot be answered until the storm passes. Hard Rock Stadium is also scheduled to host an NFL game Sunday between the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins.

The Miami Heat got out of town earlier this week. They practiced in Houston on Thursday, in advance of their next preseason game in Kansas City on Saturday.

”You always err on the side of caution,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”You can’t leave late in these things. It’s one of the few natural disasters that happen that you have an opportunity to plan for.”

Matthew was expected to cause widespread damage on Florida’s Atlantic coast, and Florida Atlantic – in Boca Raton, an area expected to feel some of the biggest brunt of the storm when it comes ashore in the U.S. – decided to move its football game against Charlotte from Saturday to Sunday. Further assessments about the viability of playing this weekend will be made once the storm clears South Florida, likely sometime Friday.

Until then, FAU’s football team is staying across the state in Tampa.

”Supporting our community, state and region is the current focus of FAU Athletics,” FAU athletic director Pat Chun said.

Matthew was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane late Thursday morning, with top sustained winds of 140 mph. The storm was blamed for more than 100 deaths in Haiti alone, and officials in Florida urged residents to prepare for what could be widespread and massive damage.

The Florida Panthers, who play home games in Sunrise – directly in the storm’s predicted path – were able to practice Thursday morning, and coach Gerard Gallant said he and his wife would ride the storm out in their condo near Fort Lauderdale.

”Lots of peanut butter, jam, lots of bread,” Gallant said, listing off some of the provisions that he stocked up on for the storm.

On the southwest side of the state, Florida Gulf Coast’s basketball arena in Fort Myers was drafted by the state to become a shelter. Many residents from the Atlantic side of the state were evacuating west, and the vast majority of hotels on that side of the state were filled to capacity.

FGCU’s men’s basketball team plans to practice elsewhere Friday. Its women’s basketball team took an unplanned day off Thursday, with hopes of practicing at a nearby high school this weekend.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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