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I-A football games on hold

It is the first time major college football will not play any of its Saturday games.


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001

It is the first time major college football will not play any of its Saturday games.

Fewer than 24 hours after deciding football should be played this weekend, the Southeastern, Big Ten and Big 12 conferences did an about-face Thursday and postponed their games because of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The three conferences joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big East Conference and Pac-10 Conference in postponing their games, meaning no Division I-A football will be played Saturday. The Big Ten said it did not officially postpone games, but its 11 schools either suspended home games or had road games postponed.

It's the first time major college football will not play any of its regularly scheduled Saturday games. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, many games scheduled for the next day were postponed but several were played, including Oklahoma-Nebraska, Florida-Miami and Auburn-Florida State.

Among the most prominent college games postponed for this week were three high-profile matchups in Florida: No. 13 Washington at No. 1 Miami, No. 8 Tennessee at No. 2 Florida and No. 10 Georgia Tech at No. 6 Florida State.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said many conferences took their cue from the NFL.

"The NFL made the decision, then the Western Conference made the decision, and when they made the decision some teams lost games they were playing with teams in those leagues, and it was sort of a domino effect," Foley said. "Everyone in the league was okay with the decision (to play) yesterday and everyone in the league is okay with the decision today.

Saturday's schedule had featured 18 games involving Top 25 teams. South Florida, which had planned to host Southern Utah on Saturday, decided to postpone that game until Oct. 20.

USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon said as of noon Thursday, there still was too much uncertainty surrounding Southern Utah's travel plans. That combined with potential weather problems in Tampa this weekend, helped make the decision. Forecasters are projecting inclement weather for the area as Tropical Storm Gabrielle is expected to hit Florida.

All tickets for Saturday's postponed game will be honored for the 7 p.m. game Oct. 20. The overriding factors for many schools, officials said, were safety and travel arrangements.

"My biggest concern from the beginning has been that we would only play if we could assure the safety of all involved," USF coach Jim Leavitt said. "We believe we have to be resilient and move forward, but never at the expense of anyone's safety. Safety is the paramount concern."

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said many of his players had expressed concern about flying to Gainesville.

"Truthfully, there has been some apprehension among a few players," Fulmer said. "Certainly, the events have everybody concerned around the country and they are no different."

Florida coach Steve Spurrier said both schools seemed relieved not to play.

"The sentiment of the NFL players was to not play this weekend, and all players feel pretty much alike," Spurrier said. "So, that was probably the feeling of all college football players. When I told the guys today that the game was canceled, I said "Treat this like an open date, get with your families if they are close by. Take some time off this weekend.' I think they were relieved.

"I got a feeling they're (Tennessee) feeling the same way. I got a feeling. The way their guys were talking and the way our guys were talking was similar."

A day after saying its games would go on, the SEC issued a new statement Thursday.

"The conference continues to believe this country must begin the healing process following the horrendous events of the past week and will evaluate all future schedules at an appropriate time," the statement said.

Spurrier said he received an e-mail Thursday from a former co-worker who lives in New York encouraging the university to play the game, saying the nation needed something positive and "something to cheer for." The Florida-Tennessee game has not been rescheduled.

Aside from games canceled in the six major conferences, Central Florida's home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette was postponed and rescheduled for Nov. 24. The Western Athletic Conference postponements included Utah State at No. 11 Fresno State, which was rescheduled for Dec. 1.

While Division I-A will shut down, as of Thursday, 10 Division I-AA games still were scheduled to be played this weekend, including Jacksonville hosting Morehead State on Saturday at 1. Bethune-Cookman canceled its game against Savannah State and Florida Atlantic will not travel to James Madison.

- Correspondent Debi Jones and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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