The Atlantic Coast Conference has been tossed into a state of flux by Hurricane Irma.
Games have been postponed, practices suspended and players throughout the conference have been left wondering about their families’ welfare as news reports of flooding and power outages dominate the news.
The storm came north through Florida over the weekend and into several Southern states, including Georgia and South Carolina.
The much-anticipated Florida State-Miami Top 25 matchup was pushed back. The league postponed that game, and several others, because of the storm. The No. 11 Seminoles and No. 17 Hurricanes will now play Oct. 7 , while Georgia Tech’s game at Central Florida was canceled.
South Carolina didn’t escape Irma, as four colleges in the state near the coast remain closed and Utilities South Carolina reported more than 63,000 customers were without service Wednesday morning. Clemson was pelted with hit with wind and rain, but did not feel the brunt of the storm. Campus was closed Monday and Tuesday, but Irma didn’t impact the football team’s practice plans for the third-ranked Tigers’ scheduled showdown at No. 14 Louisville on Saturday.
That doesn’t mean the players were totally focused on football, especially those from Florida.
Receiver Ray-Ray McCloud is from Tampa, Florida, and one of roughly a dozen Clemson players from Florida. His parents and siblings were with him at Clemson watching the Auburn game. They were staying at Clemson until the storm threat had passed. McCloud said after Saturday’s game he was worried about other relatives and friends.
“I talked to my grandparents before the game,” McCloud said. “We just keep our prayers out and put it in God’s hands.”
Louisville quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is one of 16 Cardinals players from Florida.
“My mom said she was fine, my family was all right,” the Pompano Beach, Florida, native said after the Cardinals 47-35 victory over North Carolina last Saturday. “They just wanted me to go into the game focused.”
That hasn’t been easy to do.
“It’s a very tough thing to juggle,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You just communicate with them and communicate with their families. This is a football game. That’s life and death, and very critical.
“It can be disturbing, but I think our guys have handled it well.”
There are nearly 300 players from Florida on ACC football rosters and coaches are trying to balance addressing the players’ family concerns while preparing for games.
Everyone appreciates what the players are going through, including their teammates.
“It’s definitely tough for them,” said Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey, a native of Lake Oswego, Oregon. “But they’re focusing on the team right now as best they can. I know that a couple of guys have their families up here because they had to evacuate.
“It’s good to know that everybody is safe.”
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson agrees.
“We’re certainly disappointed that we don’t have the opportunity to play this week, but we understand the circumstances involved with the hurricane,” Johnson said. “So we just kind of take it. We’ll take this as an extra bye week.”
The Yellow Jackets coach said his thoughts and prayers are with everyone impacted by the storm.
“We got a touch of it here in Atlanta, but nothing like most people,” he said.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said there was plenty of discussion in Chapel Hill about the storm.
“I talked with every single one of them, individually, about their families and what their plan was and all those things,” Fedora said. “And there were only a couple of guys that said, you know, my mom’s coming up, my dad’s staying - he said he’s not messing with it.
“So most of them got out of there, like (safety) Donnie Miles’ family down in Miami. They were here for practice yesterday. They hung out. So from what I know right now, all of them have been safe, and there haven’t been any issues. Now, I don’t know what they’re going to go back to, but they’re safe.”
Some players know what their families will go back to.
North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren said the ceiling in the Florida home of Wolfpack safety Shawn Boone fell in on Tuesday. Boone is not alone.
“Some of them, their parents have actually come up here,” Doeren said. “I think a lot of them, I said that to them yesterday, if I knew there was a storm coming that could knock my mom’s house down, I’d be pretty nervous - so that they knew we’re here for them and if they had issues to come see us.
“Shawn’s the one that reached out yesterday. Everyone was safe and all that. But obviously it’s scary.”
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