Florida, Idaho agree to cancel postponed opener
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida and Idaho have agreed to cancel their postponed season opener.
The Gators announced Wednesday that they decided not to reschedule the game, which was called Saturday night after heavy rain created unsafe field conditions.
The schools also agreed to play in Gainesville in 2017.
Both schools will play 11 games this season. Florida hosts Eastern Michigan on Saturday. Idaho, meanwhile, plays at Louisiana-Monroe.
The Vandals still will get their contracted $975,000 for making last week's trip to Gainesville.
Florida, meanwhile, will refund millions in ticket sales, although insurance is expected to cover all or most of the lost revenue.
Both teams have an open date on Saturday, Oct. 25, but neither was eager to give up a much-needed bye week in the middle of conference play. So they agreed to declare Saturday's opener a ''no contest.''
''We looked at a number of options and, in the end, we both thought it was in the best interest of our student-athletes and football programs to play out the remainder of our respective schedules as they stand,'' Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement.
The game was delayed nearly three hours because of repeated lightning strikes around Florida Field. The game finally started at 9:50 p.m., but stopped after 10 seconds. Valdez Showers returned the opening kickoff 64 yards, giving the Gators the ball on the 14-yard line. But more lightning was detected near the stadium, and the game was halted for good.
''Like all Gators, I wish we could have played the game Saturday night, but I support the decision made by both athletic directors,'' Florida coach Will Muschamp said. ''As I said earlier this week, our focus is getting our players and team ready for Eastern Michigan, and we are excited to get back out there in front of our passionate and loyal fans.''
Game officials, athletic directors and coaches decided the natural-grass field was unfit for play.
They offered four possible outcomes:
The teams could have resumed the game at a later date. They could have ended the game with a determined final score. One team could have forfeited the game. Or they could have declared a ''no contest.'' They settled on the latter option.
''I want to thank UF, especially AD Jeremy Foley, for the professional and first-class way they worked through this issue and the focus on student-athlete welfare,'' Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said. ''It was not in our best interest to play 10 consecutive weeks without a bye week. We look forward to our return to Florida in 2017.''