South Carolina is going to take a financial hit, and Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner already has taken some flak, but USC officials feel confident in their decision to move Saturday’s football game to Baton Rouge.
“While this might not be a popular decision with a lot of people, I felt strongly that it was the right thing,” Tanner said. USC president Harris “Pastides and his senior staff were with me every step of the way, and we made a decision that we feel strongly about.”
The Gamecocks (2-3 overall, 0-3 SEC) were scheduled to play No. 7 LSU (4-0, 2-0 SEC) at noon on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. USC officials decided Wednesday morning to move the game to the Tigers’ home field in Baton Rouge, La., because of the devastating flooding in Columbia and the surrounding areas this week.
The time of the game was changed from noon to 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The final decision was made during a morning meeting at the university’s Osborne Administration Building. Coach Steve Spurrier was consulted throughout the process and said he supported the decision.
“I had plenty (of input), but I didn’t deserve to have any,” Spurrier said. “That’s not the head coach’s decision with a major catastrophe like we had here. This is what is best for our city and community. This is probably the right thing to do, so we are looking forward to another road game.”
Tanner and his staff considered the possibility of postponing the game and playing later in the season.
“We got close,” he said, but that option proved unworkable.
They also had discussions with officials at several neutral site stadiums, including Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., and “a couple other phone calls,” but the logistics of those moves were too difficult to overcome in a week, he said.
“We just didn’t have enough time to get serious about one of the other stadiums,” Tanner said. “They didn’t take shape quick enough. At the end of the day, if we were going to move the game, the logical decision was to go to LSU.”
The Gamecocks are 1-11 all-time in Baton Rouge.
Concerns about showing respect to the community, infrastructure and access to drinkable water at Williams-Brice Stadium all played a role in the decision, but the ability of the city and state’s police and emergency personnel to work the football game might have been the largest factor. South Carolina typically employees a law enforcement and first responder staff of more than 400 to work home games.
“We know they are overburdened. From Day 1, there was never going to be a situation where we were going to ask for law enforcement assistance or anybody to come off the job they are performing in protecting our citizens or doing their job with the flooding,” Tanner said. “That was never an issue. Never a conversation. That was never in play.”
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott thanked South Carolina for the decision during his news conference Wednesday.
“That would have created another nightmare,” Lott said.
The Gamecocks will refund or credit any person who bought tickets to the scheduled game at Williams-Brice Stadium, the school’s Twitter account reported on Wednesday. LSU began selling tickets to its donors and season ticket holders Wednesday and will make tickets available to South Carolina fans beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. Eastern at www.LSUtix.net.
South Carolina carries insurance to protect against a loss of revenue from a canceled home game, but it pays only if the game is canceled because of structural damage to the stadium. The Gamecocks had expected to make $3.8 million from the game, according to their 2015-16 athletics budget.
“The money situation is not paramount right now,” Tanner said. “Are we going to sustain a loss? Absolutely, but as I said from the beginning, we live here in the Midlands and our family and friends have been affected by this tragedy and that’s what’s important. These other factors are not important.”
The Gamecocks are scheduled to play LSU again in 2020 in Tiger Stadium, and that game is not expected to be moved to Columbia.
“Of course, I asked about future scheduling,” Tanner said. “Schedules are set. They are very difficult to change. We understand that.”
South Carolina is scheduled to play Vanderbilt in Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 17, and school officials are not ready to make any announcements about that game, Tanner said.
“I think we have to be concerned, because our situation here in the Midlands is continuing to evolve, and we are not completely settled at this point,” he said. “We’d like to hope by next weekend that we’ll be fine, but we’ll continue to monitor the situation.”
USC-LSU ticket info
▪ Tickets issued by USC will not be valid at Tiger Stadium.
▪ Tickets go on sale Thursday at 7 p.m. at www.LSUtix.net.
▪ Tickets will be emailed to purchasers as “Print at Home”
▪ Prices are $100, $75, $60, $40 and $5 (student section)
▪ USC will refund or credit tickets sold here