Marshall’s first trip to South Carolina in 20 years is still on. The Thundering Herd just might be rolling into Columbia differently than originally planned.
MU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, speaking to The State on Monday afternoon, said his program “will make every effort possible, as long as it’s safe, to get to Columbia to play that football game.”
As of Monday, the Herd is scheduled to fly charter out of Huntington, W.Va., at 3 p.m. Friday. This comes over 27 hours before Marshall kicks off with the Gamecocks on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. The threat of Hurricane Florence might alter MU’s travel plans, however.
“In case the weather is so bad that we can’t fly,” Hamrick said, “we’d probably get on buses Friday morning.
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“And I told Ray (Tanner), ‘We will do whatever we need to do, as long as it’s safe, to get there to play that football game.’”
Huntington to Columbia is a six-and-a-half-hour drive. Tanner, USC’s AD, spoke with Hamrick on Monday morning.
“We’re just going to continue to communicate,” Hamrick said. “The only thing that we have really done, we’ve looked at possibly busing in case the winds and the rains are too bad to fly in. We’ve done that.”
Florence on Monday grew into a Category 4 storm. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday ahead of possible landfall later in the week.
USC released a statement Monday afternoon updating its plans and situation.
“USC Athletics is currently monitoring the forecast for Hurricane Florence. The safety of everyone affected by the storm and the minimization of the impact on emergency personnel are the most important factors in making the decision. We are in communication with the National Weather Service, state and local authorities and the SEC regarding potential weather issues. Fans can monitor any updates on USC athletics events via GamecocksOnline.com, social media and local media outlets.”
In the past three seasons, storms have caused a pair of Gamecocks football games to be moved.
In 2015, heavy flooding in Columbia made the logistics of hosting a game impossible, so the game was moved to LSU. A year later, Hurricane Matthew caused enough storming in Columbia to move the Georgia game from Saturday to Sunday.
Although neither of those was ideal, it means South Carolina has gone through moving games before as the situation calls for it.
“Unfortunately, we have some experience,” Tanner said Saturday. “I was talking with Greg McGarity, the Georgia AD, during the game today. And I’m like, ‘You guys are a week early.’ We’ll be dealing with this, Hurricane Florence, next week.
“Hopefully we won’t have anything to deal with, but we’ll certainly be prepared if we do.”
Marshall last came to Columbia in 1998, leaving with a 24-21 win against the Gamecocks. A year later, Hamrick, then East Carolina’s AD, saw the Pirates beat USC at Williams-Brice. Effects of Hurricane Floyd then forced ECU to stick around the Midlands.
“The hurricane was so devastating in eastern North Carolina that our football team could not get back to campus,” Hamrick said. “We stayed in Columbia all week and practiced and then we drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, because our stadium at East Carolina was flooded – no power, no water.
“N.C. State let us use their stadium. We played Miami of Florida and beat them in Raleigh in front of 50,000 people.
“So that was my first visit to South Carolina. So my second visit will be another hurricane.”