As soon as South Carolina football announced Wednesday that this weekend’s game with Marshall would be canceled due to Hurricane Florence, Gamecock fans immediately began speculating on how or even if USC would find a way to re-add a 12th game to its schedule.
As Josh Kendall of The State broke down, the hurdles facing athletics director Ray Tanner, coach Will Muschamp and USC’s administration in scheduling such a game are significant — the only open dates available at the moment are Oct. 20 and Dec. 1, and the teams available to play on those dates may not fit with what South Carolina wants or needs, and vice versa.
But in a radio interview with 107.5 The Game on Wednesday shortly after announcing the cancellation, Tanner stressed that USC will try to schedule a 12th game and laid down some of the parameters the program will look to satisfy.
“The Oct. 20 is an open date for us, but it also puts us in the position to play 10 straight weekends. So would that be in your best interest?” Tanner said. “If you make it to the championship game, you’re playing on Dec. 1. If you’re not, is that a viable date? It’s way too early to start speculating what might happen, but we will take a look.”
When pressed, Tanner made two points clear — he would push first and foremost for a home game at Williams-Brice Stadium against an FBS opponent, as the Gamecocks already have one FCS team on the schedule and can only count on FCS win for bowl eligibility purposes.
“That’s a question that coach Muschamp would be better prepared to answer,” Tanner said when asked if South Carolina might schedule an FCS team and apply to the NCAA for a waiver. “I don’t know that that would be the case, but if he says, ‘Hey you know what, we’ll play, let’s do it,’ maybe you do get granted an exception. Who knows. I haven’t pursued that opportunity. I was thinking all along that if we do get this 12th game in, it will be an FBS game.
“I’d guess you’d never say never at this point, but I’d like to play home. We like to play seven home games and our fanbase and our Gamecock Club members anticipate playing seven home games.”
Tanner also indicated that the SEC could be involved in helping to schedule a 12th game, citing executive associate commissioner Mark Womack and consultant Dave Brown as people who aid South Carolina in all scheduling matters, not just cancellations. And of course, Muschamp will be heavily involved.
On Wednesday though, Tanner told 107.5 he had yet to speak to Muschamp about an approach he and other members of the athletics administration had briefly discussed — waiting and seeing how the season plays out for USC before committing to a plan of action. The downside to that, Tanner said, was that they cannot wait too long.
“It is a situation, it is early, see where you are, see where your record is. You can’t wait too long, because you’re not going to be able to schedule a team two weeks out, so you’d have to have some tremendous advance planning to get it all worked out,” Tanner said. “I know coach Muschamp and I know his immediate response was when we’re not able to play this game was, we’ll do our very best to find a 12th game. He wants to play the games. And if we can work that into the schedule that’s what we’ll do.”
The two-week gap Tanner mentioned would mean USC would need to schedule a game in the first week of October to make the Oct. 20 date.
The university issued a statement about tickets on Thursday: “The University is closed due to the impact of Hurricane Florence. We will issue ticket refunds for the Marshall game. Details on that timeline and process will follow once the University reopens.”