ATHENS — There are increasing signs that Georgia’s trip to South Carolina is in peril. While officials at both schools and the SEC say Saturday’s game remains on schedule, someone else “can’t imagine” it being played in Columbia: The governor of South Carolina.
Gov. Nikki Haley said during a news conference Tuesday that she “can’t imagine” the game being played in Columbia, according to The State. Haley also said she’s ordering an evacuation of the state’s east coast, at least in the areas that would be effected by Hurricane Matthew.
“It’s a complete decision based on the schools,” Haley said. “As of now I can’t imagine that happening but certainly we’re going to continue to watch this. I would love nothing more than to see this take a right-hand turn and go out to sea. As it looks right now, we’re looking at Friday afternoon into Saturday being pretty brutal.”
South Carolina has already postponed two games against Georgia: Friday matches in equestrian and volleyball are postponed, the school announced.
Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, when approached at Tuesday’s practice said that the decision rests with South Carolina officials. He also claimed he didn’t know what a contingency plan would be. (McGarity, who comes to practice but hasn’t been seen there much lately, was seen speaking with Josh Lee, the football team’s director of operations.)
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina has canceled classes Wednesday, and school president Harris Pastides said he “anticipated” them being canceled Thursday and Friday as well
South Carolina State, whose campus is located about halfway between Columbia and Charleston, has postponed its game Saturday.
So what could Georgia and South Carolina do? There isn’t an easy solution.
There isn’t a week this season where both teams are off, so postponing it to later in the season wouldn’t be easy: South Carolina is off next week, Georgia the week after that.
When Georgia is off, South Carolina hosts UMass – the same team Georgia plays in 2018. So perhaps a complicated scheduling adjustment could be arranged, but so far there’s been no indication that’s even being considered.
Moving the game to Athens could always be a possibility. But South Carolina would almost certainly want next year’s game to be moved to Columbia, and if that happened then Georgia would only have five home games in 2017: Appalachian State, Samford, Missouri, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
Georgia, South Carolina and the SEC office had yet to have discussions about contingency plans for the game, according to McGarity.
South Carolina released a statement on Tuesday afternoon reiterating that kickoff for the game is still “slated for 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.”
“The University of South Carolina and the athletics department are currently monitoring the movements of Hurricane Matthew” the school’s statement said. “We are in communication with the National Weather Service, local authorities and the SEC regarding potential weather issues. The safety of everyone that could be impacted by this storm is paramount. Once forecasts call for action, we will use all means necessary to inform the public.”
Last October the South Carolina-LSU game, originally supposed to be at South Carolina was moved to Baton Rouge because of devastating floods in the Columbia area. That came in a week where at least 15 people died in the wake of the severe thunderstorms and flooding, and classes at South Carolina were canceled for the week.