Don’t punish ECU for canceling Hurricane Florence game, NC governor says

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Gov. Roy Cooper has waded into a dispute between East Carolina University and Virginia Tech over a football game that the North Carolina team canceled for safety reasons as Hurricane Florence approached the coast last September.

After ECU backed out of the game in Blacksburg, Va., Virginia Tech canceled games that were scheduled to be played in Greenville later this year, in 2023 and in 2025.

Efforts to reschedule last year’s missed game failed, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported in December. Cooper on Thursday issued a statement saying he has asked Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to encourage the Hokies to resolve the dispute and spare ECU from being unfairly penalized for canceling the game.

“As North Carolina prepared for Hurricane Florence, I urged residents across our state to stay off the roads and prepare for this devastating storm,” Cooper said. “Canceling a major college football game means lost revenue, but the safety of players and fans should come first. ECU made the responsible decision and this dispute should be resolved without making Pirate Nation bear additional costs from Hurricane Florence.”

Virginia Tech’s associate athletics director, Pete Morris, said in an emailed response to Cooper’s effort: “We’d politely decline the opportunity to comment.”

At the time, Virginia Tech said it planned to decide whether or not to play based on additional monitoring of weather reports, hoping the game could be salvaged as scheduled. It would have been more responsible to let VT make the call, the university argued.

Virginia Tech’s football Twitter account followed up with a tweet reminding followers that the Hokies’ football team traveled to North Carolina during Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and won 34-3. “HOKIES ARE WATERPROOF,” the tweet, which was later deleted, said.

Virginia Tech athletics director Whit Babcock later said he didn’t intend to minimize the dangers posed by the hurricane.

Hurricane Florence caused devastating damage in North Carolina with flooding and closed roads. It caused 43 deaths and an estimated $17 billion in damage.