Gators, Seminoles cancel games as Hurricane Irma approaches Florida

No. 22 Florida on Thursday canceled its home opener against Northern Colorado in Gainesville because of impending Hurricane Irma. A few hours later, No. 10 Florida State announced its home game in Tallahassee against Louisiana-Monroe was also canceled due to the storm.

Both football games were scheduled to be played Saturday.

Florida State's announcement came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered all state colleges and universities closed through Monday to support shelter and emergency relief efforts. The Seminoles and Warhawks don't have open dates on the same week, preventing them from rescheduling the game.

Scott Stricklin, Florida's athletic director, said it became clear Thursday that playing the game would be a mistake.

"The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts," Stricklin said. "There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress."

Also on Thursday, the Memphis-UCF game scheduled for Friday in Orlando was canceled, and it was announced that South Florida would not travel to Connecticut to meet the Huskies on Saturday. That game was initially moved up 90 minutes so that USF could return to Florida earlier, but athletic director Mark Harlan said it has been determined it isn't appropriate for the team to travel from Tampa at this time.

The USF-UConn game has not been canceled, though the teams do not share a bye week and it's uncertain that the game can be rescheduled.

Florida Atlantic, meanwhile, plans to arrive for Saturday's game at No. 9 Wisconsin, though the return trip is in question. The schools have discussed contingencies to accommodate FAU if the Owls can't return to their Boca Raton campus because of the storm, including extra nights in hotel rooms and the use of the Badgers' athletic and training facilities.

"Whatever we need to do to accommodate that," Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. "Those are real things to the players and obviously to any of the teams down there."

On Wednesday, No. 16 Miami's game at Arkansas State on Saturday was canceled due to concerns the Hurricanes had about being able to return to Miami afterward. The game will not be made up this season.

Florida officials initially moved the start time for the Gators' game against Northern Colorado from 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday to noon, in hopes of getting people back home safely, but Stricklin said it became clear that getting to and from the game would create more problems for a state preparing for a Category 5 hurricane.

"Gainesville is also close to some of Florida's heaviest traffic points this week, specifically Interstate 75, which is a key statewide evacuation route," he said.

This is Florida's second game in as many years affected by a hurricane. The LSU-Florida game in 2016 was postponed for a month and relocated to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, because of Hurricane Matthew.

Stricklin said moving the game against Northern Colorado to Friday night was discussed, but that would not have alleviated the concern of creating more traffic to already-stressed roadways and gasoline resources.

"When you look at the impact this event could have, you have to sit back and realize what's really important in life," Florida coach Jim McElwain said. "In this case, we're doing everything we can to help facilitate with what may occur. We've got a lot of kids whose families are in the state of Florida and down south. Our thoughts are with their families, first responders and any individual that may be impacted."

Travel issues stemming from the storm have caused Michael Jordan to postpone his scheduled appearance at alma mater North Carolina on Saturday for the Tar Heels' football game against Louisville, the school announced. Jordan was scheduled to serve as an honorary captain for the Tar Heels' Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the 17th-ranked Cardinals and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.