Looming Storm Disrupts Sports in Florida

Thursday, September 2nd 2004, 8:20 pm
By: News On 6

MIAMI (AP) _ Florida State and Miami will still play in prime time, just four days later than planned.

The nationally televised game, originally scheduled for Monday night, was postponed Thursday as Hurricane Frances moved closer to Florida's east coast. No. 11 Florida's opener against Middle Tennessee State on Saturday also was rescheduled.

The game between the No. 5 Seminoles and the No. 6 Hurricanes will be played next Friday night at the Orange Bowl.

``Our biggest concern is for the safety of anyone who is in the path of Hurricane Frances, and we felt the appropriate thing to do is to reschedule the game,'' Miami athletic director Paul Dee said.

Florida's home game will be played Oct. 16, athletic director Jeremy Foley said.

In baseball, the Florida Marlins postponed Friday's series opener against the Chicago Cubs. The team said no decision has been made on whether to call Saturday or Sunday games off, or when Friday's postponement will be made up.

``The Florida Marlins organization has been closely monitoring the progression of Hurricane Frances in relation to our weekend of baseball against the Chicago Cubs,'' Marlins president David Samson said in a statement. ``We are first and foremost concerned about the safety of all residents in the state of Florida and will return to baseball-related activities at Pro Player Stadium when the storm has passed and it is safe for our fans to attend.''

Marlins players were anxious to get back home before the hurricane hits.

``A lot of us have houses and family down there, so obviously we're worried about it,'' pitcher Carl Pavano said. ``It's tough with what's going on in Florida right now.''

Added outfielder Juan Pierre: ``I know I'm getting home and I'm getting out of Dodge. It looks like it's going to hit us; let's hope it's not too bad.''

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have been in contact with league officials about their possibilities. Tampa Bay is scheduled to play Detroit, Friday through Sunday at Tropicana Field.

``The No. 1 thought in our minds is safety,'' Devil Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn. ``Safety for our fans, our players and our employees.''

The Tigers are in St. Petersburg. They were off Thursday after completing a series at Kansas City on Wednesday

In the NFL, the Miami Dolphins said Thursday they were still planning to travel to New Orleans for Friday's preseason finale with the Saints, but that could change. Players are concerned about leaving their families behind.

Frances, packing winds of 145 mph, is expected to hit the state late Friday or early Saturday. More than a million threatened people were told to clear out Thursday, and residents scrambled to board up homes and stock up on water and gasoline ahead of what could be Florida's mightiest storm in more than a decade.

Several other sports events already had been postponed or canceled, including Thursday night's Jacksonville-Florida International football game and Saturday's Gateway Classic between Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville.

Hampton and Jackson State moved their season opener Saturday from Orlando's Citrus Bowl to Virginia.

South Florida's Monday afternoon football game against Pittsburgh at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium is still scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. kickoff, the school said Thursday afternoon.

Miami has had two other games postponed because of hurricanes in the last seven years; one against UCLA was delayed more than two months in 1998 because of Hurricane Georges, and one against Temple was delayed nearly three months in 1999 because of Hurricane Irene.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has a policy that it doesn't normally play games on Friday nights, not wanting to compete with high school football. But the league made an exception for Florida State and Miami.

``As much as we anticipate this game between these great rivals, public safety and welfare obviously outweigh any other considerations,'' ACC Commissioner John D. Swofford said. ``At the appropriate time, we will once again turn our attention to the excitement and anticipation of this ACC matchup.''

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said he was pleased that the game will still be played at night and maintain a national audience.

``That's the next best time, in my opinion, that we could have it,'' Bowden said. ``It's kind of like Monday Night Football because you have the whole night by yourself.''

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines national soccer team was stuck in the Miami airport on its way to Mexico for a qualifying game on Saturday. CONCACAF deputy secretary general Ted Howard said the organization was working on getting the team to Mexico.