Amid the misery in Florida caused by Hurricane Irma, the state still has places to play.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced today they will host the Chicago Bears as scheduled Sept. 17 at Raymond James Stadium. Across the state, the home of the Miami Dolphins and Hurricanes was declared safe after structural engineers found no damage related to Irma.
In college football, No. 23 Tennessee and 25th-ranked Florida will play as scheduled Sept. 16 in Gainesville. No. 22-ranked South Florida was to resume practice today and will play host to Illinois on Sept. 15, also at Raymond James.
The Bucs’ game will be their season opener.
“Hosting the game is important to us, as Tampa Bay has been through a lot over the past few days,” Buccaneers CEO Brian Ford said. The Bucs’ game last Sunday at Miami was postponed until Nov. 19 because of the storm.
The Southeastern Conference announced the Gators and Volunteers could play their league opener as scheduled. The Gators’ stadium sustained only minor storm damage to signage.
Florida (0-1) canceled its home opener last week against Northern Colorado because of the hurricane.
USF athletic director Mark Harlan said the Bulls determined their game could be safely played as scheduled without hurting recovery efforts.
Florida Atlantic is targeting a Wednesday return to its campus in Boca Raton, and still hoping to play its scheduled home game Sept. 16 against Bethune-Cookman.
Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens was determined to be safe for the Hurricanes, who are scheduled to play the next game there Sept. 23 against Toledo, and for the Dolphins.
“After thorough inspection by engineers, it has been deemed that Hard Rock Stadium experienced no structural damage from Irma,” Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel tweeted. “We are good to go with CanesFootball on the 23rd!”
The Dolphins’ first game at the stadium will be Oct. 8. Their season opener scheduled at home this past Sunday was postponed until November because of the storm.
Engineers inspected the stadium canopy that was part of a recent $500 million renovation and found no issues, despite fears of a tornado in the area spawned by Irma.
The Dolphins’ practice complex has also been declared safe and will be available when the team returns from this week’s stay in California for this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Garfinkel said.