Severe weather and unsafe field conditions forced the suspension of Saturday’s college football season opener for the Florida Gators and Idaho Vandals at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
Originally scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., the game was initially delayed 2:48 due to consistent lightning in the area. When play did eventually commence just before 10 p.m., Florida was only able to receive the opening kickoff from Idaho before lightning was again reported and referees sent the teams off to the locker rooms.
Approximately 45 minutes later, the game was officially “terminated.”
The Gators will now be forced to sit tight for the long-awaited start to their 2014 season, one that the administration, coaches, players and fans have been clawing for since Florida finished with seven-straight losses and a 4-8 record in 2013, its first losing season since going winless in 1979.
UF next hosts the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. in a game that will serve as the Gators’ debut on the new SEC Network.
Read much more on the Florida-Idaho suspension…after the break!
Official statement from Florida:
Game officials for the Florida-Idaho football game, as well as athletics directors from both schools, in conjunction with the Southeastern Conference, have determined that the game between the Gators and Vandals has been suspended. This is due to weather, unsafe and unplayable field conditions at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.
According to the NCAA rule book, if a game is suspended before the end of the fourth period and cannot be resumed, there are four possible options:
1. Resume the game at a later date;
2. Terminate the game with a determined final score;
3. Forfeit of the game; or
4. Declare a no contest.
The athletics directors from both schools, in consultation with the coaches, must agree on one of the four options listed above. This agreement will include the final score if the game is terminated.
If the game is resumed, it will begin with the same time remaining and under the identical conditions of down, distance, field position and player eligibility.
The Gators and Vandals both have an open date on Oct. 25. However, it is an especially important bye week for Florida ahead of its annual neutral-site rivalry game against Georgia in Jacksonville.
It is unknown whether Idaho, which according to Florida Today‘s David Jones was set to be paid $975,000 for the game, will be able to claim that entire payment if the game is not restarted.
In the lone play of Saturday’s contest, Gators redshirt junior wide receiver Valdez Showers returned a pooched opening kickoff 64 yards down to the Vandals’ 14-yard line. Florida was set to open up the season in the red zone, but referees called the second delay before UF could even get off a play.
The game would pick up from there if resumed.
According to the Orlando Sentinel‘s Edgar Thompson, next week’s game against Eastern Michigan will be the latest that Florida has opened a season since 2004 when the Gators were forced to cancel their opener against Middle Tennessee due to Hurricane Frances. UF also wound up starting the 2004 campaign against EMU.
The following statement from Gators head coach Will Muschamp was released by the school 25 minutes after the game was officially canceled:
It’s unfortunate that the weather didn’t cooperate for tonight’s season opener. After long discussions with the head referee, it was determined that the field conditions were too dangerous for the student-athletes.
“As everyone saw with that opening kickoff, I thought that our guys were ready and fired up to play. We appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us and sitting through several weather delays. It was amazing the energy and passion shown in the stands all night. The Gator Nation showed why they’re the best fans in the country, starting with one of the most enthusiastic Gator Walks that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”