Looming Storm Delays Florida Sports Events
Wednesday, October 19th 2005, 8:50 pm
By: News On 6
CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) _ Hurricane Wilma is giving Miami and Georgia Tech the weekend off.
With Wilma expected to arrive with potentially devastating force in Florida this weekend, school and Atlantic Coast Conference officials postponed Saturday's game between the Yellow Jackets and sixth-ranked Hurricanes.
No. 20 West Virginia's trip to Tampa to face South Florida also was postponed. The Big East will wait until Thursday to announce when the Mountaineers and Bulls will play.
Georgia Tech will play at Miami on Nov. 19. Miami's scheduled trip to Wake Forest on Nov. 17 _ a Thursday night game _ will now be played on Saturday, Nov. 12. ACC spokesman Brian Morrison said no decision has been made on whether the league will shift another game into that Thursday night slot previously held by Miami and Wake Forest.
Miami athletic director Paul Dee said several scenarios were considered, but none was as practical.
``There were a lot of elements involved in the game,'' Dee said. ``The players, the coaches, the fans particularly, allowing them to come to the game without the pressure of a storm coming down on us.''
It's the fourth time a hurricane has necessitated a schedule switch of a Miami home game; Hurricane Georges postponed a game with UCLA for more than two months in 1998, Temple's visit in 1999 was pushed back nearly three months by Hurricane Irene; and Florida State's trip south for the 2004 season-opener was delayed nearly a week by Hurricane Frances.
``These things are serious,'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. ``We know that. If we don't know it, we should just reflect back a few weeks to Katrina. It came through here as a Category 1 and trust me, we don't want to see much more.''
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins were taking a wait-and-see attitude and monitoring the storm's path. The Dolphins are scheduled to host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon.
``Nobody in this room, with all of our power and might put together, can have anything to do with where it goes,'' Dolphins coach Nick Saban said. ``What we can try to do is have something to do with preparing for the game and doing our job well and having pride in the performance of what we have to do.''
The NHL's Florida Panthers had not made any announcement about Saturday night's game against Ottawa. Team officials said an announcement would be made by noon Thursday.
Wilma was a Category 5 storm Wednesday, the strongest possible grade given to a tropical system. It was expected to hit southwestern Florida, then move quickly across the state and perhaps close to the greater Miami area by early Sunday.
Wilma would be the eighth hurricane to either strike or brush Florida since August 2004.
``That thing looks pretty dangerous to me,'' Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. ``It jumped from a tropical storm to Category 5 in about 20 hours. That's a little scary.''
The postponement will give both the Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets some time to heal.
Miami quarterback Kyle Wright has a sprained right thumb, affecting his ability to grasp and throw the ball _ but he had vowed to be ready to play this weekend.
Georgia Tech has more pressing injury concerns, with defensive tackle Joe Anoai (ankle) and defensive back Djay Jones (leg) not likely to have played this weekend. Also, quarterback Reggie Ball and tailback P.J. Daniels were hurt last weekend against Duke.
Central Florida's home game with Tulane _ a team forced from its city, school and home stadium by Katrina's strike along the Gulf coast _ will be played on Friday night, instead of Saturday.
``Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience in dealing with these situations,'' said Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson.
In other Wilma-related developments:
_The Orlando Magic said Saturday's home NBA preseason game against Atlanta is still scheduled. The Miami Heat are scheduled to be on the road for several days around the storm's expected landfall, meaning their preseason schedule should be largely unaffected.
_Florida Atlantic's football team is at Arkansas State on Saturday, and scheduled to fly back to South Florida after the game _ a flight that could be delayed depending on Wilma. ``We're on the road, so we'll probably be better off than most,'' said athletic department spokeswoman Katrina McCormick.
_In golf, the Nationwide Tour canceled the Miccosukee Championship in Miami.
It was the final full-field event of the season, giving players one last chance to finish among the top 60 on the money list and qualify for the Nationwide Tour Championship next week.
Brian Henninger was 61st on the money list, $6,601 behind Scott Peterson.
``While we are disappointed to cancel this week's tournament, particularly with so much at stake for players, we need to focus on people's safety first,'' said Bill Calfee, chief of operations for the Nationwide Tour.