South Carolina officials hope to host Saturday’s game against No. 7 LSU in Williams-Brice Stadium, but as of Tuesday afternoon, they were making no promises.
“Our intentions are to stay on schedule and play here in Columbia, but it’s not a definite,” Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner said Tuesday. “While that planning is underway, it is not a definite. We will continue to monitor the infrastructure that is necessary to have a football game.”
A decision on where and when the game will be played will be made on Wednesday.
USC announced earlier Tuesday that it was canceling classes for the week because of damage and logistics issues caused by the devastating flood in the city this week. Seven people are known to have died in Columbia because of the flooding. Fourteen are known to have died statewide.
“With what has happened here in the state of South Carolina and the city of Columbia, football is not nearly as important or important at all when you think about it in that perspective,” Tanner said.
Williams-Brice Stadium and the surrounding areas survived the storm without any major damage, and the stadium and field’s surface was mostly dry on Tuesday morning, but there are issues surrounding logistics of access along damaged roadways, access to water in the stadium and the availability of the large numbers of police and first responders required to host a game, Tanner said.
USC officials have examined the stadium and believe it’s functionally sound to host a game, Tanner said.
“There are certainly lots of concerns with our families and people who live here in the Midlands,” he said. “There are a lot of things to consider.”
The Gamecocks (2-3, 0-3 SEC) and Tigers (4-0, 2-0) are scheduled to play at noon in Columbia, but Tanner and several school administrators spent Tuesday morning investigating alternate locations for the game, including playing at LSU’s home stadium in Baton Rouge.
“There have been lots of discussions in the last few hours,” Tanner said.
The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday that USC officials have reached out to the Charlotte Panthers to ask about the possibility of playing the game at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers don’t play this weekend, but a NASCAR race in Charlotte could make hotel rooms scarce and the turf at Bank of America Stadium was recently re-sodded and might not be ready to host a game.
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported Tuesday through a source in Baton Rouge that the Gamecocks have expressed to LSU officials that they would prefer to play in Columbia or find a neutral site before considering moving the game to LSU. In 2005, the Tigers were forced to play what was supposed to be a home game at Arizona State because of effects of Hurricane Katrina.
“The ball is in South Carolina’s court. They make the decision,” LSU athletics director Joe Alleva said. “If they feel they can host the game, it will be played there. If they feel they can’t host it because of the tragedy they’ve had, then Baton Rouge is a possibility.”
LSU’s sideline reporter Gordy Rush, marketing manager for Guaranty Broadcasting, said on a Baton Rouge radio station on Tuesday that it’s possible LSU could fly into Columbia on Saturday before the game and fly out immediately afterward, the Advocate reported. The start time would have to be moved back to accommodate that change.
Several events surrounding the game already have been moved or canceled. SEC Nation, the College GameDay-like program hosted each week on an SEC campus by the SEC Network, was scheduled to broadcast from Columbia on Saturday but announced Tuesday it will go to Knoxville, Tenn., instead.
“Our hearts go out to the South Carolina community as they recover from the devastating floods,” Stephanie Druley, ESPN senior vice president for college networks production said in a statement. “We look forward to returning to South Carolina at a better time.”
Nissan also has informed school officials that it will not bring its Heisman House traveling advertising campaign to the school as planned, according to SportsBusiness Journal.
“First of all, our thoughts and prayers of course are with the flood victims in the South Carolina-Columbia area,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “We’re really pulling for them and appreciate the first responders, all of the law enforcement agencies, what they have done and so forth.”
Spurrier made a financial contribution to the Red Cross on Tuesday morning and urged “many other that are in position” to do the same during his weekly Tuesday news conference.
“It’s sort of interesting, some parts of town are not affected at all and some others are completely flooded,” Spurrier said. “We’re fortunate out where I live, no problems getting in and out. Other areas, certainly have been a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and we appreciate all the work the Red Cross and other agencies are doing.”
None of the team’s players or coaches were injured or received any significant damage because of the flooding, senior safety Isaiah Johnson and Spurrier said. The Gamecocks met as a team Monday night, but practiced indoors in a small ballroom adjacent to Williams-Brice Stadium because of the weather.
“We all send our prayers out to those who are affected by this, but Saturday we have to focus on the game,” linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “I know there are going to be a lot of emotions surrounding the game, a lot of people are going to be affected by this, but we have to come all together and put this behind us.”
Gamecocks vs. Tigers
Who: USC (2-3, 0-3 SEC) vs. LSU (4-0, 2-0)
Line: LSU by 13