Floodwaters close in on homes on a small piece of land on Lake Katherine in Columbia, S.C., Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. After a week of steady rain, the showers tapered off Monday and an inundated South Carolina turned to surveying a road system shredded by historic flooding. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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The LSU-South Carolina game set for Saturday in flood-ravaged Columbia, South Carolina, could be moved, possibly even to Baton Rouge.
According to The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said Tuesday, “Our intentions are to stay on schedule and play here in Columbia, but it’s not a definite.”
“We are not 100 percent sure that we will have a game at Williams-Brice (Stadium) at this time,” Tanner said. A final decision is expected in the next 24 to 36 hours, according to the paper.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the first preference is to keep the game in Columbia. The second is to play the game at a neutral site. The third option would be to move the game to Tiger Stadium.
Tiger Stadium game day workers have been contacted to gauge their availability for Saturday.
Gordy Rush, the vice president and marketing manager for Guaranty Broadcasting and the team’s sideline reporter, said on local radio Tuesday that one of the options is for LSU to fly into Columbia the day of the game, play the game and then fly out. The game time of 11 a.m. CT would be moved to later in the day to accommodate this.
There is precedent for such a move involving an SEC game. Tennessee flew to Baton Rouge on the day of the game to play at LSU in 2005, just a few days after Hurricane Rita hit, then flew out afterward.
South Carolina officials have reached out to The Panthers, according to The Charlotte (North Carolina) Observer.
The Panthers are idle this weekend, but there is a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway, possibly making the availability of hotel rooms in Charlotte an issue. Person also tweeted that the stadium’s field was recently re-seeded, possibly making playing on it an issue.
Another potential neutral site for the LSU-South Carolina game would be the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Georgia State is hosting Appalachian State at the Georgia Dome at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday.
A Georgia State spokeswoman said Tuesday that the school has had no conversation with Georgia Dome officials and plans to play its game as scheduled. A Georgia Dome official did not immediately reply to a message for comment.
Georgia Tech plays at Clemson this week. Tech’s stadium seats 55,000 and is located near downtown Atlanta. A Tech spokesman said the school has not heard from South Carolina about moving the game to its stadium.
LSU athletic director Joe Alleva was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
Kickoff for the game is set for 11 a.m. CT at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. The city has been plagued by problems with its fresh water supply and a number of water main breaks in the wake of weekend flooding resulting from over a foot of rain being dumped on the area.
Fourteen flood-related deaths in South Carolina have been confirmed so far.
Williams-Brice Stadium its playing field have held up well from the bad weather, Tanner said, but water service problems and the availability of police to work the game are major issues.
More than a dozen dams have burst in South Carolina, and a week of rain has left 40,000 without drinkable water.
Classes at South Carolina have been canceled for the week. Williams-Brice Stadium is not on campus, but south of downtown Columbia near the state fairgrounds.
Meanwhile, ESPN has announced it will move the SEC Network’s “SEC Nation” pregame show set to air from Columbia on Saturday to Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennessee will host Georgia there Saturday.
How rare are SEC games moved? The league office says the only one in the last 20 years might be LSU going to Arizona State because of Hurricane Katrina.
The game being canceled seems to be a long shot. It’s a rarity for conference games to not be played. In this case, it could be detrimental to LSU. The Tigers already lost a game this season to weather. The Tigers’ season opener against McNeese was canceled because of lightning.
The league office has been in contact with both schools.
“All parties continue to monitor the situation and the schools and SEC Office will remain in communication in the aftermath of the storm and flooding in the Midlands area,” said Chuck Dunlap, spokesman for the SEC. “Our thoughts are with the Columbia and South Carolina communities adversely affected by this tragedy.”
At least two South Carolina staff members have been affected by the flooding, according to The Post and Courier.
Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was forced to leave his home along with many others who live in the area of Gills Creek, which according to the National Weather Service absorbed 20 inches of rain between Friday and Saturday. Spurrier believed Elliott was able to return to his home Tuesday.
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus also had some water in his basement, Spurrier said.
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