No. 2 Clemson Forges Ahead, Playing Game with Storm Looming
Second-ranked Clemson is the only major conference school in the Carolinas and Virginia that will play its scheduled football game this weekend as Hurricane Florence looms.
Several schools across the three states canceled, re-scheduled or relocated games ahead of the storm, citing safety concerns.
Clemson officials say they are monitoring the storm's path and believe there were no issues in playing Saturday's game against Georgia Southern. Clemson has moved up the start time to noon EST from the original 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich not respond to messages left by The Associated Press, but he did say Thursday on Sirius XM radio that fan and team safety is his top priority. He said the information Clemson has is the effects of Florence on the northwest corner of South Carolina (Clemson's location) would not be impacted until late Saturday or early Sunday.
"Everybody would have ample time to get back to wherever their homestead is after the game," Radakovich said.
They'll have to do it with the help of fewer state troopers.
Capt. Kelley Hughes of the South Carolina Highway Patrol said instead of the typically 100-to-110 troopers would help with traffic there will be just 16 on site Saturday.
The rest of the responsibility would fall to local and regional law enforcement entities like campus, county or city police near Clemson, Hughes said.
Radakovich said that's happened before, most notably in 2015 when Clemson hosted Notre Dame in a drenching rainstorm that led to historic and fatal flooding in South Carolina.
"We've had a number of times where we wouldn't have maybe the full complement of folks out on the highway helping people get in, but our fan base has been fantastic," Radakovich said.
Other schools around the state did not take any chances with several other Top 25 teams canceling games, including: No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's game at North Carolina.
Virginia moved its Saturday home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee and Boston College and Wake Forest moved their Thursday night matchup up several hours.
Clemson's state rival South Carolina also canceled its contest with Marshall on Wednesday.
Hurricane Florence's leading edge battered the Carolina coast earlier Thursday , bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 100 mph (155 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.
Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. Its surge could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 11 feet of ocean water, and days of downpours could unload more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.
Radakovich said he expects a good, enthusiastic environment Saturday at Clemson's Death Valley stadium.
"They all understand that we have their safety in mind and that's why we moved the game up," he said.
One potential fan won't be at the game.
High school offensive lineman Jakai Moore from Nokesville, Virginia, was supposed to make an unofficial recruiting visit to Clemson, but expected travel trouble due to Florence canceled the trip.
Clemson wasn't the only school where officials were addressing football schedules on Thursday due to the approaching storm.
Presbyterian canceled its football game with Stetson on Saturday because of the approach of Hurricane Florence.
The FCS school was to play at home in Clinton, South Carolina. Presbyterian then shifted the game to the opponents' home field in Florida. But Presbyterian athletic director Danny Sterling said it became clear travelling out of state was not safe for the team or fans.
In Georgia, the third-ranked Bulldogs announced a decision to move up the kickoff time of their Saturday game against Middle Tennessee. The Bulldogs will play at noon instead of the 7:15 p.m. scheduled start time. School officials said the decision was made following "extensive evaluation involving the uncertainty of weather conditions on the east coast, and consideration of all constituencies involved including fans, support staff, and law enforcement."
There is no rain in the current forecast for Saturday. Athens, in northeast Georgia, could be affected by outer bands of the storm on Sunday.
Atlanta's professional teams also got involved Thursday.
Arthur Blank, the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United announced a $1 million pledge toward storm relief efforts. The grant will be split between the American Red Cross of Georgia and Greater Carolinas Region, as well as the United Way, to assist rebuilding and recovery efforts during hurricane season.
The Atlanta Braves Atlanta Braves are offering coastal residents displaced by Hurricane Florence free tickets to the Washington Nationals series this weekend.