University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill officials announced on Tuesday that the UCF vs UNC football game scheduled for Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
Strengthening Hurricane Florence is moving at 17 mph and is about 785 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center's 5 p.m. update on Tuesday. The impending hurricane, now a Category 4, shut down all sporting events at UNC for the entire weekend, according to a Tuesday UNC press release.
UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said in the press release that hosting a major college football game requires thousands of state, local and campus personnel. Public safety officials also travel from different areas to help host the game.
“The current forecast for both the impact and aftermath of the hurricane would require those officials to divert critical resources from what could be much more significant duties,” Cunningham said. “We can't know for certain the amount of damage the storm will inflict, but the sensible decision at this time is to not play the game.”
UNC and UCF officials are discussing the possibility of rescheduling the game, but it might not be possible for UCF.
“It is unlikely the Knights will be able to replace the North Carolina contest with another game as the Knights don’t have a true open date,” a Tuesday press release from UCF Athletics states.
The only open date the Knights have during the 2018 regular season is the weekend of Oct. 27, but UCF is scheduled to play on the following Thursday, Nov. 1.
“The priority must be safety for everyone in the path of the hurricane,” UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White said in the press release. “Having been through similar situations the past two years, we certainly understand this decision. We wish UNC the best of luck through this storm and for the rest of the year.”
In September 2017, the Knights rescheduled and then canceled their conference opener against the University of Memphis Tigers due to threats from Hurricane Irma. The Knights were also scheduled to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets the following weekend, but the game was also called off due to the aftermath of the hurricane.
The UCF Athletics Department was able to replace both home games during last year's season, giving the football team a full conference schedule.
UCF's Student Government Association sold discounted tickets, which included free bus vouchers to and from the game, to students for Saturday's game in North Carolina.
UCF SGA members are drafting a statement that will outline instructions regarding reimbursements for students who purchased discounted game tickets, Kyler Gray, UCF SGA attorney general and judicial advisor, said in a Tuesday email. Gray said students can expect the statement by Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center tweeted on Tuesday that Wednesday should be the last full day to prepare for Hurricane Florence. Tropical-storm-force winds could reach the Carolinas as early as Wednesday night, but will most likely hit Thursday morning, National Hurricane Center forecasters said. The center of Hurricane Florence is expected to approach the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina on Thursday and Friday.
NEW: Florence is now a category 4 hurricane. Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter indicate that Florence has continued to rapidly strengthen and has maximum sustained winds near 130 mph (195 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 946 mb (27.93 inches) https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/wfLt6fJPl2— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 10, 2018
On Monday, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued a mandatory evacuation of most coastal counties effective Tuesday at noon. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a mandatory evacuation of all islands on the coast of the state, also effective Tuesday at noon. Both North Carolina and South Carolina governors have declared a state of emergency for their respective states.
UCF head coach Josh Heupel said in the press release that the Knights will focus on the upcoming home game against the Florida Atlantic University Owls on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
“I’m confident our student-athletes will adjust to this change,” Heupel said. "Our concern is with the safety of everyone being affected by the storm."
UNC and UCF officials stated in their respective press releases that any tickets purchased through either school will be refunded.