In the wake of the national tragedy and with impending tropical weather, the USF football team announced Thursday that Saturday?s game against Southern Utah has been postponed until Oct. 20.
USF coach Jim Leavitt commented in the team?s weekly press conference Tuesday how inconsequential the game is in light of the disaster.
?Practicing and playing Southern Utah is really not that significant when you put into perspective what?s happening on the national scene,? Leavitt said.
According to sports information director John Gerdes, the game was set to be played on schedule as late as Wednesday evening. Thursday, however, saw postponements in most major sports. The National Football League, NASCAR, Major League Baseball, and, later in the day, the rest of Division I-A college football announced postponements of their respective events.
In addition to national sentiments, Southern Utah coach Ray Gregory said the postponement was the result of the logistical nightmare created by the interruption in air travel. The Thunderbirds were going to attempt to bus to Las Vegas from their location in Cedar City, Utah, and fly to Tampa from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport Thursday night.
?I think (the postponement) was all we could do with the logistical problems,? Gregory said.
Gregory said his staff and coaches have had a hard time concentrating this week with all that has occurred.
?Our kids, their minds aren?t on football,? he said. ?It was real fortunate we had the same open dates and we could make it up.?
Southern Utah?s athletic director Tom Douple said in a press statement several factors are reflected in the decision. He said he had discussed the issue at length with USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon before the decision was reached.
?In light of everything that has happened and with the uncertainty surrounding our flights and the weather, we decided it is in the best interests of both schools to reschedule the game,? he said.
Conference USA, which the Bulls? football team will join in 2003, is one of the few leagues that did not announce full cancellations until late in the day. Gerdes said the conference was going to allow schools to rule on a case-by-case basis, taking into account logistical as well as moral needs in deciding whether to play. The domino effect of cancellations, however, reached college football late Thursday, and all Division I-A games were canceled.
The first home game of the season for the Bulls will now be Sept. 29 against North Texas. The next scheduled game will take place Sept. 22 at Memphis. The rescheduling of the Southern Utah contest will put the game in the midst of a tough five weeks on the road for the Thunderbirds, and a six-week home stand for the Bulls that finishes out the season. USF officials said they will honor all tickets to this weekend?s game on the Oct. 20 makeup date.
With the cancellation of high school football late Thursday, what was supposed to be a busy football weekend in the Tampa Bay area will be quiet. Sporting events in Tampa have joined the rest of the nation in taking a back seat this weekend to the national tragedy. Baseball will resume Monday with other sports following throughout next week.
Leavitt said Tuesday his team was saddened, but, along with the nation, will eventually have to move forward. As for now, Leavitt said his team must appreciate what is happening.
?Our prayers go out to the families and friends and all things that are happening,? he said.
Rob Brannon covers football and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org