It’s an ugly storm, and I don’t wish for anything bad on anyone who has to deal with the effects of it, but I can’t help but wonder about karma when you hear local officials try to justify playing the Georgia-South Carolina game.
Richland County Council Chairman Torrey Rush said he has no issues with the sheriff’s department, which employs 700 officers, stepping into the game as long as there are enough deputies to cover the rest of the county.
But no extra help will come from Columbia Police for the game. Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said he already has officers committed to assignments related to the state evacuation plan and other tasks related to Hurricane Matthew.
Holbrook was diplomatic when asked about holding the game during a weather crisis: “It is not my place to provide an opinion as it relates to any decisions made by the University of South Carolina.”
Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said “preservation of life” is the city’s top priority, but added, “I do know that USC football games are very important to the local economy.”
I hope that’s not your political epitaph, Mayor.
UPDATE: Chip Towers doesn’t think, ultimately, it’s about the money.
No, if you ask me, the bigger issue here is South Carolina’s competitive edge. Let’s face it, the Gamecocks’ ability to win this game decreases dramatically if it is played anywhere else. South Carolina (2-3, 1-3 SEC) is fielding a competitive team this year, like it does pretty much every year. But the program is in a rebuilding mode in its first year under coach Will Muschamp, thanks to Steve Spurrier running out on them midway through last season.
As a result, Georgia is a significant favorite, even playing the Gamecocks on their home field. But South Carolina traditionally gives the Bulldogs fits at Williams-Brice. It has won the last three there, two of which it could be argued Georgia fielded the better overall team.
There was a very simple solution to this whole situation with respect to hurricanes and evacuees. Just move the game to Athens and play it in Sanford Stadium. That or take it down the road a little further to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Give them the Gamecocks the gate if you must, pay the game back next year, whatever it takes to make it as financially equitable as possible.
Just move it out of Columbia and let them use the stadium and the fairgrounds and all those facilities to care for the thousands of evacuees pouring into town.
But, no, Athletic Director Ray Tanner and the Gamecocks weren’t thinking about that. It seems their concerns were elsewhere.
South Carolina coach William Muschamp was asked about the decision Thursday night after announcing the time change on his radio call-in show.
“It’s all about the safety of our student-athletes,” he said of the 70 football players who will suit up for the Gamecocks on Sunday. “We’re very sensitive to a very catastrophic situation on our coast.”
That’s one of the worst “it’s all about the kids” excuses I’ve ever heard. What about the safety of the fans and the kids on the other team?