— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va — Marshall and South Carolina wanted to play football Saturday night, but Hurricane Florence said no.
The schools announced late Wednesday what was expected all week: Due to oncoming Hurricane Florence, the Herd and Gamecocks won’t be meeting Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner said that consideration for those in the Palmetto State who will likely be hit hard by Florence led to canceling the game.
“Whether or not the game could have been played, we made the decision we think is best for the state and those who are evacuating the coast,” Tanner said.
The decision came hours after revised forecasts showed the potential for a greater impact on South Carolina from the hurricane, so the game’s cancellation will free up hotel rooms in the Columbia area for evacuees while allowing emergency personnel to be utilized in areas impacted by the storm.
Hurricane Florence has resulted in cancelled classes at the University of South Carolina and the university will remain closed through Saturday.
Tanner said that “Marshall athletics director Mike Hamrick and I have been in constant contact throughout the week about the game and we are in total agreement that this is the correct decision.”
Tanner says the two teams won’t be able to reschedule the game this season, but USC will still look at options for a 12th game on its 2018 schedule.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Hamrick said. “The student-athletes welfare was our number one concern. I appreciate the professionalism of Ray Tanner and the South Carolina athletic department during a difficult circumstance.”
Information regarding ticket refunds will be forthcoming.
The cancellation means an unwanted off week for both clubs. Marshall (2-0) is next in action at home on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in a nationally-televised game against North Carolina State, while the Gamecocks (1-1) will be on the road on that day at Vanderbilt.
The good news for Marshall’s athletics department is that it will not be losing much money on the cancellation. MU was to receive $1.3 million for playing the Gamecocks as well as another $100,000 from tickets sold and Hamrick says an event cancellation insurance policy taken out by Conference USA will cover the lost revenue, minus the cost of some travel expenses.
Could Marshall find a 12th opponent this season? It is possible as two old MU rivals, East Carolina and UCF, as well as Nebraska, share Marshall’s scheduled open date of October 27th. ECU and UCF are also off this week due to Hurricane Florence, as the Pirates’ game at Virginia Tech was cancelled as well as the Knights’ game at North Carolina. Nebraska lost a game in week one as stormy weather prevented the Cornhuskers from hosting Akron.
Some 22 FBS and FCS games have been cancelled this weekend due to Hurricane Florence.
South Carolina’s scheduled open date is October 20, the same day Marshall hosts Florida Atlantic in a Conference USA East Division showdown.