See Update Below
The early reports first floated by Chip Towers at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's DawgNation.com that the Georgia Dome is the likely stadium to host UGA-USC if it cannot be played in Columbia have been denied by the Dome itself:
Well, that's about as emphatic as stadium officials get; those guys are typically so laconic and dry they make State Department flaks look like frat boys talking crap on a weekend bender.
For our part, it looks like it's shaping up to be a test of wills between USC A.D. Ray Tanner and Governor Nikki Haley about when (and if) we can proceed with this football game in the face of Hurricane Matthew.
Most of the major outlets - The Post & Courier, The State and Rivals/The Big Spur have been reporting throughout the day that Associate A.D. Charles Bloom [a USC grad who used to be SEC ex-Commish Mike Slive's fixer/lieutenant/amanuensis over in Birmingham] gave an interview on Columbia's 107.5 FM "The Game" where he said that all options are on the table to keep the Georgia game at Williams-Brice Stadium - including a Sunday or Monday date. Per Bloom, there was only a "minimal chance" the game would be moved away from Columbia.
For her part, the Governor said today (Wednesday) that no state employees would be working the game - which typically would be the end of the subject, since S.C. State Troopers coordinate traffic and security at Williams-Brice.
However, we learned moments ago from The State that the Columbia Police Department, along with the Richland and Lexington County Sheriffs' Departments, are coordinating and willing to assume those security duties:
"There won’t be any lack of security at the game whenever it’s held." Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
Is this a good idea? The USC fan in me says yes - the storm hasn't reached Florida yet and it's an important game for USC. Why should we punt already?
But the old fart I've morphed into isn't so sure. Is it right to divert all the first responder resources needed for a game with a major hurricane lurking in the upper Carribean with a path that will - at the minimum - graze our coast [or worst-case scenario make landfall]? Especially in the face of mandatory evacuation of at least a million South Carolinians in the Lowcountry? And a year almost to the day after Columbia suffered historic flooding that none of us thought was even possible?
Plus, is it fair to our opponents to keep this up in the air? They have to put on a road show with their team, staff, band, and fans. On top of that, they have to make travel plans on our roads which are already clogged with evacuees. I'm not sure that is justifiable. Are they willing to play Sunday or Monday?
Over in the Classic City, the Dawgies are just as confused as we are. As of the time of this post, UGA A.D. Greg McGarity has not made any comment, and the Georgia Athletics official Twitter feed has only re-tweeted Carolina's rather anodyne "Official Weather Statement Update:'
Well, that is clear as mud, guys.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey gave an interview with Paul Finebaum in which he says the league is actively engaged on the issue, but really has nothing concrete to offer one way or the other beyond the usual pablum:
"We have a policy in place. It assigns authority ultimately to the Commissioner in certain circumstances, particularly around the cancellation, the postponement of contests. We're not there yet."
In The Feed Pail this morning, I wagered that the decision would be settled by this time today. Seems I was way wrong on the prediction.
Losing a home game is not to be undertaken lightly. There are competitive ramifications, not to mention economic implications for Columbia's hospitality industry. I get all that. But safety talk isn't just talk; do we want a traffic jam at W-B if Matthew makes a hard left turn?
Tanner needs to resolve this soon.
It appears Ray decided while I was in the process of writing this article so I am officially withholding any further prognostications. Per Josh Kendall of The State - the aforementioned USC Associate A.D. Charles Bloom has confirmed on Carolina's WKNT radio that the game will be played in Columbia; it's just a matter of when: USC, Georgia will play at Williams-Brice, but which day?
There is precedent for a Monday nighter going back in 2005. We've heard that Athens is hosting a big marathon on Saturday that will use the Sanford Stadium facilities. If the Dome isn't an option, then Sunday or Monday makes the most sense.