CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Teams across the southeastern portion of the U.S. were keeping a close eye Tuesday on the progress of Hurricane Matthew, which forecasters say could have a major impact on no fewer than four states by later this week.
Storm shutters were being drawn shut across windows at the University of Miami, where the 10th-ranked Hurricanes were preparing for their annual rivalry game with No. 23 Florida State on Saturday. A hurricane watch was already posted for parts of Florida, while the southernmost portions of the state were under a tropical storm watch.
“I don’t know what we’ll do, to be honest with you,” Miami coach Mark Richt said. “Just keep everybody safe, first. We’ll do the best we can.”
Miami was preparing for several contingencies, including potentially using the bubble at the Miami Dolphins’ facility if inclement weather keeps the Hurricanes off their own practice field later this week.
The Atlantic Coast Conference – which could have at least five Saturday football games affected if the storm strikes as forecasters believe it could – said it was monitoring Matthew closely and hoped that games will be played as scheduled.
In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley planned to issue an evacuation order Wednesday so that up to 1 million people can leave coastal areas. South Carolina is still planning to host its Southeastern Conference football game against Georgia on Saturday night.
“As of now I can’t imagine that happening,” Haley said. “But certainly we’re going to continue to watch this.”
The first U.S. sports cancellations related to Matthew came on Tuesday, including the decision by Gulfstream Park West to scrap its live thoroughbred racing cards for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Wednesday was to be first day of racing this season at the track in Miami Gardens, Florida.
“Safety of our fans, horses, jockeys, horsemen and employees is our top priority,” Gulfstream Park general manager P.J. Campo said. “Because weather conditions the next few days remain uncertain, we thought it was best to call off the next few days.”
While the football game remained on, two other South Carolina-Georgia events – equestrian and volleyball, both scheduled for Friday – were postponed. Other postponements announced included a pair of FCS games originally set for Saturday, Albany State at Charleston Southern and Bethune-Cookman at South Carolina State.
Also, Elon moved its football game with New Hampshire up a day to Friday due to the storm.
The Tampa Bay at Florida NHL preseason game scheduled for Thursday remains scheduled, for now. The Miami Heat play an NBA exhibition game in Kansas City on Saturday, and may depart Miami for there – or someplace else – as early as Wednesday afternoon to get ahead of the storm. And numerous upcoming high school football games in South Florida this week have already been postponed or canceled.
The biggest issue caused by the storm, at least related to games this weekend, could be travel arrangements.
The Panthers were scheduled to fly to West Point, New York, on Friday, but if strong winds are pounding South Florida as forecasters expect, that trip could be affected. So might Florida State’s scheduled Thursday flight into Miami for Saturday night’s game.
Other Saturday ACC games that figure to be potentially affected include Army at Duke, Virginia Tech at North Carolina, Syracuse at Wake Forest and Notre Dame at N.C. State.
“Everything is on the table right now,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
There’s a possibility that some of the ACC games could be moved to Sunday, if necessary. That isn’t a possibility for Florida State-Miami – since the Miami Dolphins play at Hard Rock Stadium, the field the Hurricanes use, on Sunday against Tennessee.
The Dolphins say that other than keeping tabs on the storm, there’s no change to any of their plans yet.
“It’s just now kind of a wait-and-see for us,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said.