Vols expecting still to play Saturday at Florida

Vols expecting still to play Saturday at Florida

September 12th, 2017 by David Cobb in Sports - College

Tennessee's Todd Kelly Jr. (24) smothers Florida's on-sides kick. The Florida Gators visited the Tennessee Volunteers in a important SEC football contest at Neyland Stadium on September 24, 2016.

Photo by Robin Rudd /Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE — Tennessee coach Butch Jones said Monday that he is expecting this week's game at Florida to be played as scheduled in Gainesville.

There are no guarantees.

The Southeastern Conference released a statement later in the day leaving the game's status uncertain in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which swept through the Sunshine State on Sunday, causing flooding, damage and power outages across the state.

"Now that the storm has passed through Gainesville, the University of Florida is working with local authorities to assess the effect of the storm on the campus and the Gainesville community, at the same time ensuring the appropriate security and local officials are available to host a game," league commissioner Greg Sankey said in the statement.

Jones said Tennessee athletic director John Currie will handle the logistics of the situation for Tennessee. Currie and Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin are close friends.

"What happens happens on Saturday in terms of location of the game," Jones said. "John Currie has done a really good job with that, and he'll continue to do that. We have to control what we can control, and that's our preparation for this football game."

The Gators (0-1) canceled their home opener against Northern Colorado this past weekend in anticipation of the storm.

"It's out of our control and it's something that doesn't really affect us mentally," Tennessee senior tight end Ethan Wolf said. "I think we're going into it more worried about the team than where we're going to play.

Central Florida's home game against Georgia Tech, scheduled for Saturday in Orlando, already has been canceled. Gainesville is about 125 miles north of Orlando.

The Orlando Sentinel noted Monday that, among the reasons for Florida's cancellation of last Saturday's game, more than 3,300 working personnel, 17 government agencies and outside vendors are needed to conduct a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the university's campus.

Florida and Tennessee do not share a mutual off week on which their game could be rescheduled. When the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, led to cancellations and postponements, the Volunteers and Gators met a week after the regular season was originally scheduled to end, forcing the SEC championship game back a week.

That scenario seems an unlikely remedy for this year's scenario, and canceling the game altogether also seems improbable, because it would make both teams ineligible for this year's SEC championship game under a new league rule. If Gainesville is deemed unfit to host the game, playing at a neutral site could be an option.

Tennessee snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Gators in Knoxville last season, but the Vols have not won in Gainesville since 2003.

"I think we still feel like we have a lot to prove going back down there," senior offensive tackle Brett Kendrick said Monday. "Obviously, it would be huge for our senior class to get that win down there."

There are 13 Tennessee players from the state of Florida, including two who scored touchdowns in Saturday's 42-7 win over Indiana State as the storm closed in on their home state.

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.