Florence's approach causes plethora of ACC schedule changes
By AARON BEARD
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) While safety concerns at Atlantic Coast Conference schools are being addressed ahead of Hurricane Florence, the storm's significant impact on this week's schedule will have a lingering effect on scheduling obstacles, monetary implications and bowl considerations once it passes.
The list of canceled games include No. 13 Virginia Tech's home game against East Carolina, No. 14 West Virginia's trip to North Carolina State and No. 18 UCF's game at North Carolina. Virginia has moved its Saturday home game against Ohio to Nashville, Tennessee, with the Category 3 storm forecast to come ashore along the Carolinas' coastline late Thursday or early Friday, bringing strong winds and heavy rain throughout the region.
The schools with canceled games left open the possibility of trying to reschedule them for later in the season, but there's no guarantee that will work.
"What's led up to this point has been the health and safety considerations, not just for the teams but the fans and the state and the region," said Michael Lipitz, North Carolina State's deputy athletic director for internal operations. "That just becomes the overriding consideration to get to this point, and so we'll deal with it. We'll deal with what's next. We'll figure it out."
There certainly aren't many easy options for rescheduling games.
The best chance would come if the teams share an off week, but that's not an option here. There's also the weekend of Dec. 1 after the scheduled completion of the regular season, though that could conflict with conference championship games.
In addition, there's the possibility of scheduling a different opponent that might also be looking to replace its own weather-impacted date, such as Nebraska and Iowa State - both of which lost Week 1 home games due to severe weather that swept through the Midwest.
"It's just a lot of moving parts and it's a lot of conversations with your counterparts around the country trying to figure out what makes the most sense for everybody," Lipitz said. "And in this circumstance, because you're already in the season, that can change week to week. It's a little different than scheduling years in advance."
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said Wednesday that adding a second off week to help deal with cancelations or postponements would be "worthy of consideration." Because as former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe put it: "There's really no wiggle room now the way the schedule is."
"You go 12 games and a (league) championship game is 13, and then you want an open date," Grobe said. "And then you've got the bowl season coming and some of those bowl games are sooner than later. ... There's a lot to think about. It's not easy. I've got a feeling that some of these games just won't be made up, you just won't be able to do it."
That could lead to other obstacles to resolve.
Start with the ECU-Virginia Tech game, which was knocked from the Saturday schedule when East Carolina announced it wouldn't travel to Blacksburg due to "significant imminent safety concerns" that included "perilous travel conditions before, during and after the storm."
Last year Florida Atlantic got stuck after a weekend game at Wisconsin and couldn't make it home for several days because of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
In a Wednesday email to The Associated Press, Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said that the cancellation or rescheduling of that game has not yet been addressed but will be "in a timely manner." The contract between the schools calls for either team, if unable to fulfill its obligation to play, to pay $250,000, and that also has not yet been addressed, Babcock said.
Teams also might ultimately need those lost games to improve their postseason positioning, too.
Look no further than last year, when Florida State's September game against Louisiana-Monroe was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. The Seminoles rescheduled it for the first weekend in December, which ultimately allowed them to get to six wins and become bowl eligible for the 36th straight season.
Second-ranked Clemson's game against Georgia Southern on Saturday in Death Valley is still on, but the school announced Wednesday that it was moving up the start time from 3:30 p.m. to noon because of the storm. Like every other team in Florence's possible path, the Tigers are preparing for the game until told otherwise.
"I think we're going to play the game, so I haven't put much thought into it beyond that," coach Dabo Swinney said. "If the game time changes, then we have a plan in place for all game times. ... As far as postponing, I don't think that's going to happen. But if for some reason it did, we'd kind of move on to the next game."
AP Sports Writers Hank Kurz in Richmond, Virginia, and Joedy McCreary in Raleigh contributed to this report.
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Updated September 12, 2018