Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Colleges

Florida Gators will not make up season opener against Idaho

GAINESVILLE — For Florida, it was one night, one missed game and one spectacular lightning show, but for the season as a whole, it might have one big impact.

Florida and Idaho officials had consulted since Saturday about the scheduled season opener they were unable to play because a thunderstorm created unplayable conditions. They finally decided Wednesday that the game would be "no contest," leaving the schools with 11 games.

That could have ramifications for the schools' bowl eligibility and a well-known coach on the proverbial hot seat, though the athletic budgets seem to be protected by contracts and insurance.

The two schools agreed to play a game sometime in 2017, which will be held in Gainesville.

"We looked at a number of options and, in the end, we both thought it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and football programs to play out the remainder of our respective schedules as they stand," UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

Fans who purchased tickets to the Idaho game will receive a full refund. The University Athletic Association will fulfill the terms of the contract, which means the Vandals will receive their $975,000 guarantee by Feb. 1. The Gators expect to recover refunded ticket revenue through insurance.

"I want to thank UF, especially AD Jeremy Foley, for the professional and first-class way they worked through this issue and the focus on student-athlete welfare," Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said. "It was not in our best interest to play 10 consecutive weeks without a bye week. We look forward to our return to Florida in 2017."

Saturday's 7 p.m. kickoff was delayed by nearly three hours amid a reported 1,100 lightning strikes. The game was eventually suspended after athletic officials from both schools and game officials determined the field was unsafe for play.

At one point, standing water covered large portions of the field.

The game kicked off at 9:48 p.m. — and lasted exactly one play — before more lightning forced another suspension and, subsequently, the game was called.

The Gators and Vandals each have an open week on Oct. 25, but it's one week before the annual Florida-Georgia game and, for the Gators, there was no value in losing that off week. Idaho coach Paul Petrino said Monday that he also did not favor losing his team's bye week, and he suggested the two schools might play in December.

"Like all Gators, I wish we could have played the game Saturday night, but I support the decision made by both athletic directors," said Florida coach Will Muschamp, who is trying to recover from a 4-8 season that caused many to believe he needs a strong year to keep his job. "Our focus is getting our players and team ready for Eastern Michigan."

Florida players said their greatest disappointment was not being able to play Saturday night. With the decision made, they don't have to worry about what might happen, and said they feel free to move on to the next opponent.

"It really doesn't matter," junior defensive end Dante Fowler said. "Going into the season when you start getting things rolling you don't think about that anymore. That was last week."

"I would have liked to play it when it was scheduled," senior linebacker Mike Taylor said. "But as our coaches said, we don't want to risk a bye going into a game (Georgia) that will be very big towards our season and for what we want to do and accomplish with this year."

Contact Antonya English at [email protected] or (813) 226-3389. Follow @TBTimes_Gators.

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