Pitt-USF showdown on -- for now
As of last night, the Pitt-South Florida football game in Tampa was still on, despite the threat of Hurricane Frances.
"If weather conditions force a postponement of the game, we will make an announcement as soon as possible," Pitt athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. "A decision to change the game's status could occur as late as Sunday at noon."
Pitt's charter plane is scheduled to leave at 6 p.m. Sunday. The storm is projected to touch down mid-morning today along Florida's east coast. Tampa is a west coast city.
Frances forced the postponement of another game scheduled for Monday -- Florida State at Miami. The nationally televised game has been moved to Friday, Sept. 10 at the Orange Bowl.
Pitt does not have the luxury of moving its nationally televised game (ESPN) to the following weekend because it plays Ohio University on Sept. 11 in its home opener.
The Pitt-USF game would be moved to the first weekend of December, which could potentially cost the Panthers money if ESPN chooses not to televise.
"We would have to determine at that time if it fits into our schedule, and if it is a game viewers want to see," Mike Humes of ESPN said.
Pitt fans are already bailing out of the Tampa trip. A group of 60 yesterday canceled a five-day package that included a flight and accommodations. Tom Bailey, a longtime booster, said he's stuck with two townhouses in nearby Tampa.
"We were supposed to have 10 or more," he said. "Now, only three are coming."
Should the game get postponed, it would be the fourth time in Pitt history it has happened. The Penn State game in 1950 was postponed due to snow, the 1963 PSU game was moved back due to the John F. Kennedy assassination and the 2001 game with UAB was bumped to December due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Pitt defensive backs Jemeel Brady and Kennard Cox, both Miami natives, know hurricanes all too well. Brady was 7 and Cox 8 when Hurricane Andrew ravaged Miami in 1992.
"Rooms were shaking, we went from one to the next, all together," Brady said. "You couldn't see outside because the windows were boarded up, but there were animals making loud noises. Some got out of the zoo and were just running.
"Our roof blew off. We lost a room. When I looked outside, it was like a different world."
"Trees were slapping our windows," said Cox, who had a number of family members ordered to leave the area in anticipation of Frances. "I'll never forget it."
Brady is concerned about making the trip to Tampa on Sunday with Frances looming.
"My mother told me not to worry about it," he said. "But it's in the back of my mind. I'm fighting it."