On a typical fall Saturday in Gainesville, a home football game creates a lot of traffic, but this Saturday will be like no other in the history of Florida.
The University of Florida has decided to play its home football opener Saturday against Northern Colorado. UF moved up the kickoff from 7:30 p.m. to noon.
In football-crazy Florida, the Florida State Seminoles also moved up their home opener to noon Saturday in Tallahassee.
But what makes UF unique is its proximity to Interstate 75, the major evacuation route for people fleeing Hurricane Irma from the south. I-75 goes through the heart of Gator Nation just a few miles from the campus.
UF’s athletic director and Coach Jim McElwain both emphasized that fans should put safety first, but a columnist for the school newspaper, The Alligator, says the university is crazy to play the game.
“I know many of you are stuck in traffic,” Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday during a storm briefing in West Palm Beach.
As more people heed state and local evacuation orders, the traffic could only get worse, and Saturday is the last possible day that procrastinators can evacuate before Irma strikes.
UF’s stadium, “The Swamp,” seats about 92,000, and many of them will be getting into their cars to drive home after the game ends late Saturday afternoon. Oh, yes, many will need to fill their cars with gas, too.
Some season ticket holders won’t be there Saturday. On a Gator football Facebook page, Nicki Morris was selling an extra ticket, ”Super cheap!”