Hurricane Irma is projected to be the most powerful storm to hit Florida in decades when its due to make landfall in the state Sunday morning, and preparations are well underway to protect the public. The most important part is for people in its path to evacuate and that help is extended to those most in need. Sports are a trivial concern in these circumstances, but leagues and teams are making an effort to keep fans safe as games are being rescheduled, postponed and canceled across MLB, college football and the NFL. Here's a look at how this weekend's sports calendar has changed.
Dolphins-Buccaneers reschedule for Week 11
On Wednesday, the NFL announced that Sunday's game between the Dolphins and Buccaneers in Miami would be rescheduled for Nov. 19, as both teams already had a bye scheduled for Week 11.
With the storm expected to affect the South Florida area for quite some time, the Dolphins are packing up and temporarily moving operations across the country. Owner Stephen Ross is flying players, coaches, traveling staff and their families to Los Angeles, where the team will set up shop in the buildup to the following Sunday's game against the Chargers.
The indoor practice "bubble" is deflated. Prayers for South Florida. Stay safe... pic.twitter.com/zYcLXjmMII- Tom Garfinkel (@TomGarfinkel) September 6, 2017
Rays-Yankees moved to Citi Field
The series between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees set for Monday through Wednesday at Tropicana Field is heading north. The three-game set will now take place at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
"I think it makes a lot of sense," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi. "It's easy travel, in a sense, for both teams. They're coming from Boston. I know Tampa doesn't want to lose home games, but I think there was some risk we wouldn't maybe play till Wednesday, then you'd have a doubleheader, then probably a doubleheader at our place. So I think [MLB] made a good decision."
Major college football games canceled
The sport being affected most by Hurricane Irma is undoubtedly college football. Although most teams tried to move up games on Saturday in an attempt to get it in before the storm, all the major programs in Florida have understandably erred on the side of caution.
The first school to cancel its game was the University of Florida, which originally moved up kickoff for its game against Northern Colorado to noon on Saturday before calling it off altogether. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin noted I-75 in Gainesville being a heavy traffic point on the evacuation route and not wanting gameday traffic to add to that burden.
"We have been in constant communication this week with University and government officials," Stricklin said. "As the Hurricane's track has approached the state of Florida, it's become obvious that playing a football game is not the right thing to do. The focus of our state and region needs to be on evacuations and relief efforts. There is a tremendous amount of stress currently on the roads of this state, and the availability of gas, water and other supplies are at critical levels. Playing a college football game Saturday would only add to that stress."
Despite it being set to take place in Jonesville, Ark., Miami's game against Arkansas State was canceled as well. Both teams lack an open date to squeeze the game back into the schedule so it won't be rescheduled for this season.
"The decision to cancel these athletic contests is difficult, especially as some are scheduled to take place away from Miami," Miami athletic director Blake James said. "However, we made the collective decision that we simply cannot put our student-athletes, coaches and staff in danger travelling to and from contests."
Some cynical fans looked at this move as a way for the Hurricans to get around having to play an out-of-conference road game. But Miami coach Mark Richt shot that down in a series of tweets, noting the Canes haven't even been able to meet as a team properly this week because of storm preparations.
To set the record straight we have not practiced since Tuesday and we won't til everyone gets back in town after this CATEGORY 5 hurricane!- Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) September 8, 2017
Nor have meet as a team or a staff. The safety of our players and staff and the ability for them to be w/ Family is our priority!- Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) September 8, 2017
Very sad to read some of the comments of some football fans and some members of the media believing we had some other motive! U Family!!- Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) September 8, 2017
The final member of Florida's big three, Florida State, canceled its game against Louisiana-Monroe, which was scheduled for a noon kickoff Saturday in Tallahassee. The teams do not share a bye week and there are no plans to reschedule the game. So both the Canes and Noles will be out of action until Sept. 16, when they square off with one another in Tallahassee.
UCF and Memphis tried to move their game set for Saturday to Friday night in Orlando but decided to cancel the game outright in the end. South Florida also canceled its trip to Connecticut to face UConn.
Braves offer tickets to Irma evacuees
Even though Georgia is also expected to be hit by Irma, it should be significantly less severe than the impact on the state to the south. And many evacuees will be seeking shelter in the first major city they reach once they exit Florida.
So in an effort to be a kind host and neighbor, the Braves have offered free tickets for this weekend's series against the Marlins to all Florida residents and anyone from one of the counties being evacuated on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts.
"We know how difficult it has been for those who have had to pack up and leave their homes as Hurricane Irma approaches," Braves President of Business Derek Schiller said. "We hope we can help take their mind off the storm for a few hours by coming to enjoy a baseball game at SunTrust Park."
In light of recent evacuation orders, we will honor this deal to residents of Georgia and South Carolina that are under evacuation orders. https://t.co/2nIgfNCxxI- Atlanta Braves (@Braves) September 7, 2017
Cy Brown writes about football, golf, soccer and other stuff for Sports on Earth. Follow him on Twitter @CEPBrown.