South Carolina is moving its home game against LSU to Baton Rouge because of massive flooding around the university.
Saturday’s game at LSU will start at 3:30 p.m. EST. The network that will broadcast the game will be announced on Thursday.
South Carolina officials wanted to keep the game in Columbia, but said Wednesday that law enforcement who would direct traffic and keep Williams-Brice Stadium safe were needed elsewhere in the area to help clean up from the massive flooding.
“That would have created another nightmare for us,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, whose county includes the stadium.
University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides said if he canceled classes this week because 34,000 students was too much for the city’s damaged infrastructure to handle, he couldn’t justify bringing in 84,000 people for a football game.
LSU will give South Carolina all proceeds from the game after it pays expenses. The Gamecocks will be treated as the home team in almost every way, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said.
“We will be playing their music. We will play some of their fight songs. We will play their alma mater,” Alleva said.
LSU heard suggestions they should paint the field South Carolina colors, but Alleva said the school couldn’t do that because the Tigers play Florida at home the next week.
The Gamecocks also have another home game Oct. 17 against Vanderbilt, and South Carolina athletic director Ray Tanner said there are no guarantees they can keep that game at home.
“We like to hope by Vandy next weekend, we would be fine, but we will continue to monitor the situation,” Tanner said.
Tanner said even with the money from LSU, South Carolina will take a loss. Projections from the athletic department’s budget presentation to the Board of Trustees in June showed the school expected to make $3,854,476 from ticket sales.
The school has insurance, but it only pays if structural damage to the stadium forces the cancellation of a game. While some nearby roads flooded and remain closed, the stadium was not affected by floodwater.
South Carolina is refunding all tickets sold for the game in Columbia. LSU is selling a whole different batch of tickets, which will all be sent electronically. Fans will have to print them out. Alleva said LSU won’t sell some upper deck seats unless there is heavy demand.
South Carolina and LSU came close to rescheduling the game for a different date, but couldn’t quite make it happen, Tanner said.
The teams also looked at playing at neutral sites like Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, or Jacksonville, Florida. But Tanner said it would just be too tough to hold a game and get all the necessary employees on short notice.
South Carolina likely won’t get to make up the home game any time soon, if at all. LSU doesn’t return to South Carolina’s schedule until 2020.
“You don’t have an opportunity to flip schedules. It is very difficult,” Tanner said.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said he wasn’t given much input into switching the game because it wasn’t his call. He said he understands people are in need in Columbia and it would be too tough on the community to play at home. He said the unexpected road game won’t change his planning.
“Pack a small bag, go spend Friday night, play and fly home,” Spurrier said.
LSU has had to move football games before. The Tigers moved their opener in 2005 against Arizona State from Baton Rouge to Tempe because of damage from Hurricane Katrina.
LSU also had its opener this year at home against McNeese State canceled because of persistent lightning.
Tigers coach Les Miles said his team is happy to have another home game, but understands the difficulties South Carolina players are going through. He also said that won’t make a difference on Saturday.
“As soon as you walk inside those white lines, it’s 100 yards. The advantage goes to the team which is ready to play,” Miles said. “Being at home means comfortable confines. That is all wonderful for us.”