GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said he and other officials looked at a range of possibilities to get the Gators’ football game with Northern Colorado played on Saturday before ultimately making the decision to cancel the game.
Stricklin joined the weekly “Gator Talk” radio show Thursday night to expound on the decision and discuss the process leading to this point.
“We badly wanted to play this football game. Our team badly wanted to play this football game. And I know our fans wanted to see the Orange & Blue run out on Steve Spurrier-Florida Field and play this football game. So we were (working) all week to make decisions to play this game,” Stricklin said.
Among those efforts was reaching out to Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs to see if Florida and Northern Colorado could use Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., while the Tigers were on the road playing at Clemson.
“Jay is a good friend and he was more than willing to figure something out there for us, but again that means we’re going to put our team on the road in the conditions that we’re currently under and then when we get there we’ve got to get them back. And the time to get them back is about the time that storm is starting to come up through the state,” Stricklin said. “We just kind of felt like we started to get boxed in. But we spent a lot of time looking at a lot of possibilities.”
Stricklin said another option was to ask fans not to come to the game and play in an empty Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to eliminate any extra congestion on the roadways as residents evacuate from the south.
Ultimately, that idea didn’t sit well either, he said.
“Our staff said, ‘How can we ask fans to come to a football game?’ And we even thought about asking fans not to come to a football game. That didn’t seem right either. If you’re going to play a game at The Swamp, it seems like we should have 88,000 Gators fans with us,” Stricklin said. “… The next question is why are you even playing the game if you’re telling people not to come. So it just seemed like the right thing to do. This (hurricane) is an event of massive proportions and it’s going to impact the southern part of our state first, but it could end up impacting every part of this state. And it just seemed like the wise and prudent thing to do at this point.”
Again, the biggest factor in the decision was the impression that state officials wanted people to stay off the roads unless evacuating. Then came the matter of having Northern Colorado fly in for the game.
Initially, Northern Colorado was taking a commercial flight into Tampa, but Gators coach Jim McElwain revealed that Stricklin and the Florida administration had arranged for the team take a charter flight into Gainesville instead. Still, Stricklin had concerns about the situation.
“Once we got to the point where today we were looking at all the issues with travel in the state of Florida, even bringing Northern Colorado all the way across the country into Gainesville, Fla., to play a game did not seem like the right note to strike on Saturday,” he said.
There was one other matter Stricklin wanted to clarify for fans.
He said he had received some emails since the first announcement Wednesday from people upset that Florida was going through with the game for the purposes of not having to refund tickets. He said that is not the case at all.
“When we moved the game to noon we had a lot of people, I had some emails (from) people saying, ‘It’s just about the money.’ The money part was not really a factor,” Stricklin said. “We have insurance for these kind of situations so it’s going to be revenue neutral from that standpoint. So really it was about what’s the right thing for the University of Florida, for Northern Colorado, for our fans, for the community and for the state for Florida.”
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