Georgia has moved Saturday’s game against Middle Tennessee to a noon start due to the threat of Hurricane Florence, the university announced Thursday morning.
The game will be televised on ESPN News. Originally, the game had been scheduled in the preseason for a 7:15 p.m. kickoff. Due to the change, Georgia will play its first noon game at Sanford Stadium since 2016.
This is the second time in the past three seasons that a hurricane has caused Georgia to reschedule a game. In October 2016, a game at South Carolina was moved to Sunday due to Hurricane Matthew’s landfall.
Hurricane Florence is a major hurricane that has threatened the East Coast throughout the week, and the track shifted southward Thursday morning to project a greater effect on Athens and the Middle Georgia area.
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Most models didn’t indicate an impact on Georgia until Sunday morning, and Georgia Athletics Director Greg McGarity indicated things were “still a go” as of Wednesday night.
After discussion with Middle Tennessee officials, however, McGarity told The Telegraph that the needed relocation of law enforcement and event staff on the coastlines was a leading factor in the decision.
For the Blue Raiders making the trip from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the change didn’t add too much difficulty.
“The team will still stay in Atlanta and come over the day of the game,” Middle Tennessee Athletics Director Chris Massaro said. “We will have less meeting time on Saturday, so the coaches will do more of the last minute reminders on Thursday and Friday. We were happy to adjust and accommodate to the needs of all with this pending storm.”
If the game were canceled, Middle Tennessee would not get its $1.7 million incentive for playing. Georgia also would lose all revenue from gate receipts and concessions, according to a game contract obtained by The Telegraph.
“I’ve seen what’s coming. Certainly my thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the South Carolina community and the area that may be hit by (the hurricane),” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said Monday. “There’s not a lot we can do to control it. We’ll continue to work on Middle Tennessee and get ready for it.”
The weather may not play a factor due to the time change, but Georgia has practiced with wet balls in preparation for any possibility. Regardless, the effect on the Bulldogs’ readiness will be minimal.
“I really haven’t looked at the weather,” Georgia sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm said. “Whenever game time is, I’m there.”