UNC-Miami to play early due to Orange Bowl damage

Updated: October 25, 2005, 9:32 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Hurricane Wilma damaged the Orange Bowl's lighting system, prompting the starting time for Saturday's game between North Carolina and sixth-ranked Miami to be moved up to noon, the Atlantic Coast Conference said on Tuesday.

"We wanted to play in the Orange Bowl, since it's our home,'" Miami coach Larry Coker said. "I think it's an opportunity to give something back to the community a little bit. We're a tough, resilient community and we look forward to playing in front of our fans."

The Carolina-Miami game was originally scheduled to be played at 3:30 p.m., which means it would end in darkness -- and potentially create a dangerous situation for both fans and players. An overwhelming majority of Miami-Dade County remained without power Tuesday, and a nighttime countywide curfew is starting daily at 8 p.m. until further notice.

Miami's campus is closed until Sunday. The Orange Bowl has been deemed structurally safe; a few sections of the building will be inaccessible to fans for this weekend's game.

"It has been determined that it is in the best interests of our community to get back to a normal flow of activities as soon as possible," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said. "We are aware of the difficulties. ... But we hope in some small way that playing this game will be positive for the community."

Moving into the 3:30 p.m. slot is Clemson's visit to Georgia Tech, a game that was scheduled to start at noon. Wilma's looming arrival forced the postponement last weekend of Georgia Tech's visit to Miami, a game that will now be played on Nov. 19 in South Florida.

"We're focused," Miami quarterback Kyle Wright said. "We're disappointed we didn't get to play last weekend, and we're all excited to get back out there and play."

Also, Florida International's scheduled home game Saturday against Middle Tennessee has been postponed because of damage caused by Wilma. The game will be rescheduled, with the schools looking at a date in early December.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press