GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators’ suspended game with Idaho will be remembered by the fans, coaches and players who were there last Saturday night.
But the record books will show the two schools never met.
UF and Idaho officials announced Wednesday the schools have declared the game a “no contest” and will move on with their respective seasons.
The schools have agreed to play a game in 2017.
“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,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement.
The decision preserves the Gators’ Oct. 25 bye week prior to the Georgia game on Nov. 1 in Jacksonville. UF and Idaho each are idle that week, but the Gators did not want to give up an extra week of rest and preparation, while Idaho would have had to travel more than 2,700 miles again to play the game.
“I would have liked to have played it when it was scheduled,” Gators linebacker Mike Taylor said Wednesday. “But as our coaches said, we don’t want to risk a bye.”
The Gators, who also have a bye on Sept. 27, would have played nine straight weeks if the schools met Oct. 25. Idaho would have played 10 straight weeks.
“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.”
Another option was the schedule the game in December, but the SEC championship game is Dec. 6, while Dec. 13 would conflict with exams and the beginning of potential bowl preparation.
To reach the decision, each school had to address some weighty financial concerns.
UF has agreed to pay Idaho the $975,000 guarantee for Saturday’s game, which is scheduled to be delivered on Feb. 1, 2015.
Florida also will reimburse fans who paid to see Saturday’s game at the Swamp. For refund information, fans should contact the Gator Ticket Office at 352-375-4883 ext. 6800.
The athletic department has insurance to help cover the loss of about $2 million in ticket revenue.
And the Gators have deep pockets they can dip into, if necessary. Even during a 4-8 season in 2013, the Gators generated a profit of $51,071,589 last season, according to a Department of Education report.
Some fans might have felt they received their money’s worth even though a 64-yard kickoff return from Valdez Showers was the game’s only play. The return came after a 2-hour, 48-minute weather delay, but as the teams lined up at the Idaho 14-yard line for the game’s first play from scrimmage officials stop the game again due to lightning strikes in the area.
Despite delays, heavy downpours and lightning, thousands of fans, led by a rowdy student section, stayed until the game officially was suspended at around 10:30 p.m. Ultimately, officials ruled the combination of severe weather and an unsafe field made it impossible to continue.
“At the end of the day, we weren’t able to play, but we all know what the circumstances were,” defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. said Wednesday. “I take my hat off to the coaches, for not being so stubborn and not listening to it. They were looking out for our health. Everyone could tell that that surface wasn’t ready to be played on, but at the time we didn’t care.
“But when you think about it, it was the right thing to do at that time.”
The Gators last played 11 games during the regular season in 2005, coach Urban Meyer’s first season in Gainesville. The NCAA added a 12th game the next season.
UF coach Will Muschamp entered the season needing as many wins as possible on the heels of a 4-8 season. While UF was a 36-point favorite against Idaho, winners of one game in 2013, Muschamp was on board with the decision.
“Like all Gators, I wish we could have played the game Saturday night, but I support the decision made by both athletic directors,” Muschamp said. “Our focus is getting our players and team ready for Eastern Michigan.”
Fowler said he and his teammates have moved on.
“That was last week,” he said.