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Gators on, 'Noles off, Bulls waiting to hear

Schools, conferences take wildly different approaches to this weekend's schedule.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001


TALLAHASSEE -- In wrestling with how college football should react to Tuesday's terrorist attacks, Florida State and Florida have taken opposite tacks.

The Seminoles decided Wednesday to postpone their nationally televised showdown against Georgia Tech to allow for an "appropriate time" to pass in respect for the dead.

The Gators have opted to go ahead as planned with their nationally televised game against Tennessee to "bring our people together in a common of expression of sympathy and mourning."

It's a philosophical split that can be seen nationally.

After a series of conference calls Tuesday and Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East schools unanimously voted to postpone all their games this weekend. That included the Big East's marquee game and one of the three showcase games in the state: top-ranked Miami's date with visiting Washington, the team that cost the Hurricanes a national title shot last season.

Meanwhile, South Florida athletic director Lee Roy Selmon and his counterpart at Southern Utah, Tom Douple, agreed to play during a Wednesday conference call of school officials. Air travel permitting, the Bulls will host the Thunderbirds at 7 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in their home opener.

Central Florida seemingly wants to play, but school officials delayed an announcement Wednesday when air travel had not yet resumed. Louisiana-Lafayette is scheduled to take a charter flight Friday.

The Southeastern Conference, including UF, will keep its schedule, and its schools will donate $1-million from gate receipts and television revenue to victim assistance funds. Fans attending the games will be encouraged to make a donation.

"Those games could have been rescheduled," UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said. "The overwhelming sentiment was that we thought it was an appropriate time for fans to come together to deal with the horrific tragedy of yesterday in this country. A chance to begin the healing process. A chance to grieve and mourn together. A chance to reflect on what has happened here and what the quality of life in this country means and a chance to pay recognition to the heroes that are still working this tragedy and obviously to give support to our president. There's a chance to do that around this league in a very meaningful way."

FSU coach Bobby Bowden understands that view.

He espoused it a few hours after terrorists flew airliners into the World Trade Center in downtown New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A fourth jet crashed outside Pittsburgh.

"When it first occurred, I felt like terrorists want to demoralize you first and then they want to shut down everything," he said. "I was thinking, "Nah. We need to play to show them they can't shut us down no matter what they do.' Then, I went home last night and watched for the first time what had happened and how many people were involved and I was thinking, "Gee whiz. How in the world could you play a ballgame? How could a crowd be cheerful when that's happened?' The longer it went, the more I felt we just should not play the ballgame."

Echoed FSU president Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte: "This is a time for sober reflection by all Americans, a time to respect the loss of lives, those injured and their families and friends."

Although FSU athletic director Dave Hart said he and his league brethren discussed security, his overriding concern was the timing of the game, coming so soon after a "national tragedy of historic proportions."

"There is a general feeling, and I subscribe to this notion, that we need to move on," he said. "Where I draw the line is I believe there is an appropriate time to move on. We will move on, but it will not be as quick as this weekend."

The FSU-Georgia Tech game likely will be played Dec. 1. Tickets purchased for Saturday will be honored.

Moving on quickly is not unprecedented.

The Seminoles, Gators and Hurricanes, as well as many other teams, played Nov. 23, 1963, the day after the assassination of President Kennedy.

"Obviously some folks will disagree and we understand that completely. We respect that opinion," Foley said, adding that SEC officials were concerned no other conference would play.

He said UF wouldn't be playing Saturday if President Bush set that day, instead of Friday, as a national day of mourning.

"We're looking forward to the ballgame Saturday," UF coach Steve Spurrier said. "We're excited to play. Yesterday nobody felt like doing anything, but I think we all realize life's got to go on and we're getting ready to play our best this Saturday, and I'm sure Tennessee feels the same way. The ballgame's on."

Others agreed that was a good thing.

"I feel so badly, as this whole country does, about what has occurred," USF's Selmon said. "It weighs heavy on all our hearts, and it will weigh heavy on our hearts for a long time. But we do want to try to move forward as best we can, and hopefully this game will in some way recognize this. We want to make special attention and awareness of our concern at the (game) for this tragic event."

He said Southern Utah had contacted Delta, the airline it is scheduled to take to Tampa on a red-eye flight Thursday night/Friday morning, and been told it most likely will be able to make the trip. If the Thunderbirds can't make it, both teams have an Oct. 20 open date, and the game would be rescheduled then.

Elsewhere, Conference USA and the Big Ten decided to play as scheduled except where the teams or opponents have agreed to modify or cancel. Ohio State and San Diego State will meet Oct. 20, but Penn State at Virginia was postponed. The Big Ten members, like the SEC, will contribute $1-million to a non-profit disaster relief fund to be determined.

All Big 12 teams except Nebraska will play as planned, barring transportation problems or any unforeseen circumstances, a league official said. The Nebraska-Rice game has been moved to Sept. 20. The Pac-10 previously voted to postpone all league games, leaving non-conference games up to the individual school.

Three of the 10 Western Athletic Conference members (Fresno State, UTEP and Louisiana Tech) will play their games, subject to travel availability, as scheduled Saturday. Tulsa is tentatively scheduled to play. Three Mid-American Conference schools (Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Ohio) previously announced they would reschedule their games, but the others are on as planned.

-- Times staff writers Antonya English and Pete Young and other news organizations contributed to this report.

Today

SOUTH

Kentucky Wesleyan (0-2) at Tenn.-Martin (0-2), 7:30 p.m.

Saturday

EAST

Northeastern (0-2) at Rhode Island (2-0), noon

Buffalo (0-2) at Army (0-1), 1 p.m.

Dartmouth (0-0) at Colgate (0-2), 1 p.m.

Bucknell (0-1) at Cornell (0-0), 1 p.m.

Columbia (0-0) at Fordham (1-0), 1 p.m.

Harvard (0-0) at Holy Cross (1-0), 1 p.m.

Robert Morris (0-2) at Monmouth, N.J. (1-0), 1 p.m.

New Hampshire (2-0) at Hofstra (1-1), 6 p.m.

Lehigh (1-0) at Penn (0-0), 6 p.m.

West Chester (0-2) at Delaware (0-2), 7 p.m.

Lafayette (0-1) at Princeton (0-0), 7 p.m.

Yale (0-0) at Towson (1-1), ccd.

SOUTH

Houston (0-1) at Georgia (1-1), noon

Tennessee Tech (1-1) at Samford (0-1), noon

Vanderbilt (0-2) at Mississippi (1-1), 12:30 p.m.

Drake (1-1) at Davidson (1-1), 1 p.m.

Morehead St. (0-2) at Jacksonville (2-0), 1 p.m.

ETSU (0-2) at VMI (0-2), 1 p.m.

Villanova (2-0) at William & Mary (2-0), 1 p.m.

W. Virginia St. (2-0) at Charleston Southern (1-1), 1:30 p.m.

Kentucky St. (0-2) at Chattanooga (1-1), 1:30 p.m.

Florida A&M (2-0) vs. Grambling St. (2-0) at Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m.

Delaware St. (1-1) at N. Carolina A&T (1-0), 1:30 p.m.

E. Kentucky (1-1) at Elon (0-2), 2 p.m.

Tennessee (2-0) at Florida (2-0), 3:30 p.m.

Furman (1-1) at Liberty (0-2), 3:30 p.m.

Savannah St. (1-1) vs. Bethune-Cookman (1-1) at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 5 p.m.

Southern Miss. (1-0) at Alabama (1-1), 5:45 p.m.

Norfolk St. (1-0) at S. Carolina St. (1-1), 6 p.m.

Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) at UCF (0-2), 6 p.m.

The Citadel (0-1) at W. Carolina (1-1), 6 p.m.

Clark Atlanta (0-1) at Morris Brown (0-2), 7 p.m.

North Alabama (1-1) at Murray St. (1-1), 7 p.m.

S. Utah (1-1) at South Florida (1-1), 7 p.m.

Appalachian St. (1-1) at Troy St. (0-2), 7 p.m.

Georgia Southern (2-0) at Wofford (0-1), 7 p.m.

BYU (3-0) at Mississippi St. (1-0), 7:30 p.m.

McNeese St. (1-1) at Jacksonville St. (2-0), 8 p.m.

Alabama A&M (0-2) at MVSU (0-2), 8 p.m.

Prairie View (0-2) at Southern U. (1-1), 8 p.m.

Auburn (2-0) at LSU (2-0), 9 p.m.

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