Irma already causing big changes to Florida sports schedules

NOAA's GOES East satellite imagery shows Hurricane Irma move west toward the Leeward Islands and strengthen to a Category 5 storm

By: Associated Press
September 5, 2017

MIAMI (AP) -- Hurricane Irma's looming arrival is already preventing the Miami Dolphins and Florida International from hosting their respective home openers this weekend, with more changes almost certain to happen in the coming days.

The Dolphins were scheduled to host to Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon; FIU was to host Alcorn State on Saturday night. Officials decided on Tuesday that neither of those games will be played in South Florida, though they may be played elsewhere this weekend.

And it wasn't just the Miami area keeping a close eye on Irma. All over Florida, teams were bracing for what may happen.

UCF's Saturday game against Memphis was also moved up to Friday, and No. 10 Florida State was reviewing options regarding its Saturday night game against Louisiana-Monroe -- with moving kickoff to earlier in the day a possibility.

"Obviously we've got to be prepared for what's coming," said Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, who has never been through a hurricane before. "But I think everyone in South Florida has kind of been through the drill and is well prepared."

The Dolphins and Buccaneers may play at a neutral site, or play in November since they share the same bye week. FIU officials were trying to find any way to get their game in as well.

"We are monitoring the situation and looking at all options," FIU executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia said.

For now, No. 16 Miami and Florida Atlantic are planning to play this weekend -- well out of the storm's projected path. Miami is scheduled to go to Arkansas State, and FAU is set to visit No. 9 Wisconsin.

Getting out of South Florida shouldn't be a problem for those teams. Getting back might be another story.

"Right now, everything is on go," Hurricanes coach Mark Richt said. "But with this storm coming and the direction it looks like it's taking, it's certainly a possibility it comes here, so we'll have to figure out what's best."

Irma's winds were 185 mph Tuesday, a strong Category 5 storm, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said it could strengthen more as it neared the eastern-most Caribbean islands. The storm had the most powerful winds ever recorded for a storm in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Miami Marlins won't have any home games affected by Irma; the team leaves for a road trip on Wednesday night. Families of Marlins players have been invited on the trip, so they wouldn't have to ride out what could be a devastating storm at home.

"If you had your kids here and you're leaving on a trip, it's not the best feeling to leave your family somewhere," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.