Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Friday he needed assurance no evacuees from Hurricane Matthew would be displaced before an agreement was reached to move the Bulldogs’ game at South Carolina from Saturday to Sunday.
The agreement to play the game Sunday was completed Thursday night in a conference call that included administrators from South Carolina, Georgia and the Southeastern Conference.
McGarity said South Carolina has offered Georgia on-campus lodging the team plans to use Saturday night. For McGarity, this was a crucial alternative to taking hotel rooms in Columbia needed by evacuees.
“The key thing was hotel rooms,” McGarity said. “We did not want to be in the position of having anything to do with displacing evacuees. … That was something that would not have been acceptable on any level.”
Georgia officials are in Columbia on Friday to look at the facility. McGarity says another contingency plan is in place if the on-campus lodging doesn’t suit Georgia’s needs.
“Again, I want to really stress, even the contingency plan is not displacing anyone from their hotel rooms,” he said. “That was off the table from Day One for the University of Georgia, and South Carolina felt the same way.”
McGarity said he offered to have the game played at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. The teams could not have rescheduled the game later in the season because their schedules don’t have the same off weekends.
The agreement to play Sunday came after officials in Columbia said sufficient security and emergency medical personnel would be available without taking state workers from their duties closer to the coastline.
“We never talked about finances or money or what it would cost. … It was strictly based on could the city of Columbia support this game from a safety standpoint and EMT standpoint,” McGarity said.
McGarity said “everything was on the table” during the discussions this week, including possibly canceling the game. The SEC postponed the LSU-Florida game that had been scheduled for Gainesville, Florida.
“The difference is Columbia will have some wind and some rain but nothing of the magnitude they’re going to experience in Gainesville,” McGarity said. “So the two really aren’t similar. They’re very different.
“If the security services were not being able to be provided up to the standards South Carolina felt comfortable with, I’m sure the decision would be different than the decision that was reached (Thursday) night.”
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