USC asks Gamecock fans to give up hotel rooms to evacuees if possible

USC set to play Georgia on Sunday afternoon

With the University of South Carolina deciding to move its football game at Williams-Brice Stadium to Sunday afternoon, the university on Friday asked Gamecocks fans to consider releasing any hotel rooms they might have booked to help accommodate coastal evacuees.

“The university encourages Gamecock fans that do not need their previously reserved hotel rooms to contact your hotel and release your reservations,” Jeff Stensland, USC’s associate director of public relations, said Friday.

“We also encourage hoteliers to be flexible with their standard two-night minimum in order to help accommodate both hurricane evacuees and fans,” he said.

Hurricane Matthew is expected to slam the state’s coastline all day Saturday, and also bring high winds and several inches of rain to the Midlands.

The massive storm, which already has killed hundreds in its trek from the Caribbean to the U.S. East Coast, has forced hundreds of thousands of South Carolina residents to seek shelter inland. That’s well below the estimated 1.1 million people originally expected, but the exodus nonetheless has packed hotels in the Midlands and across the state to full occupancy, forcing many to locate to shelters or find lodging options in other states.

A shelter in Lexington County at White Knoll High School, one of dozens already opened across the state, already had at least 109 people Friday afternoon, according to Rachel Ham, communications manager at Lexington County School District One.

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Meantime, Stensland said the university’s Columbia campus will remain closed Saturday, with all classes cancelled. The university will resume normal operations on Sunday, and the Gamecocks are set to play against SEC foe University of Georgia on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The game would be the first-ever Sunday football game played by the Gamecocks in its long history, dating back to 1892.

“We have been and continue to be in communication with the Governor’s Office and state officials, state and local law enforcement agencies including the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the National Weather Service, other local authorities, and the SEC regarding potential weather issues” Stensland said.

“Based on the current forecast and expected weather conditions as well as information from local law enforcement agencies, at this time, the University is confident in our ability to host the game on Sunday at Williams-Brice Stadium,” he added.

“We will be able to staff traffic, security and other game day operations. The safety of everyone affected by the storm and the minimization of the impact on emergency personnel were the most important factors considered in making the decision,” Stensland said.

Stensland cautioned that bus service for students and others to the game from Carolina Coliseum will experience some delays because of buses supporting the evacuation effort. “The University remains ready to provide additional assistance related to Hurricane Matthew if necessary,” he said.

Stensland said university officials continue to monitor the movements of Hurricane Matthew. “Should weather conditions or other factors that impact game day operations change, the university will make adjustments accordingly,” he said.