Repeating comments he's made all week, UCF coach Scott Frost reiterated on Thursday that playing Georgia Tech this weekend just wasn't feasible.
While the National Guard has set up camp at Spectrum Stadium, the larger issue was reassembling the team after they scattered in advance of Hurricane Irma.
"We were never going to keep the kids here," Frost said. "Once it was decided it was too dangerous to play a football game (vs. Memphis) on Friday night, it was real hard to tell the kids they had to stay here and practice. At that point we had to let the kids decide if they wanted to go home and be with family or stay here. It's taken us a long time to get the whole team back. We're still five short today."
Frost said about 60 percent of the team stayed in Orlando, while 40 percent went home. That includes several from out-of-state, including offensive lineman Jake Brown from California.
"The South Florida kids were the most worried when it looked like it was going to hit there," Frost said. "We had some kids evacuate to the Tampa area and that scared me when it looked like the eye of the hurricane was going there. We didn't know where the hurricane was going to hit until the day before. We actually had a couple kids' families, Jawon Hamilton being one, that came up here to watch the Friday night game and couldn't get back to South Florida, so we helped them find a place here to ride out the hurricane. Every family had to make plans and try to be safe. We tried to facilitate that the best we could."
On Wednesday, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson appeared to call UCF out for declining their offer of playing Saturday's game in Atlanta.
"Realistically to prepare for a game, we practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday," Frost said. "The hurricane was still kind of here on Monday. We had no chance to practice Monday. Tuesday we didn't have half of our roster back. Yesterday it was close to 70, 80 percent. Today we're still short guys. To try to get a team ready to play, you need a week of preparation. Even a short week would have been okay, but losing two or three practices and trying to play a game would have been impossible.
"Playing it somewhere else, Paul Johnson knows better than what he said. Playing it somewhere else wouldn't have mattered. In fact, travel would have made the problem even worse. The decision to cancel the Memphis game affected our decision whether to keep the kids here or not. When we didn't keep the kids here, I knew all along this game was in more jeopardy than the one leading up to the hurricane."
Some in the Atlanta media have insinuated UCF's decisions were calculated in an attempt to avoid playing Georgia Tech, specifically their triple-option offense.
"No offense, I don't care what media says," Frost said. "I know what our kids want. Our kids want to play. There's just nothing we could do about it. The biggest storm in Atlantic history was barreling down on Florida. Nobody knew where it was going to hit. We decided to make decisions based on the safety of our kids first. I knew once we released the kids it was going to be hard to bring them back. We got the majority of the team back now. It would be way too late to try to get ready for a game on Saturday."
Sources tell UCFSports.com there has been talk to reschedule the Georgia Tech home game to a later season. The Knights are currently scheduled to play in Atlanta in 2020. Georgia Tech's athletic director is Todd Stansbury, who held the same role at UCF from 2012-15.
"I think the talk is to push that one out," Frost said. "We're always looking to schedule games. We try to play two Power Five games a year. We'd welcome the chance to play them again down the road."
As for the Memphis game, sources told UCFSports.com earlier on Thursday the game would be rescheduled for Sept. 30. To accommodate the move, UCF will buyout the home game vs. Maine. UCF is also working to schedule a FCS team for the current bye date of Oct. 28.
"We need to play Memphis," Frost said. "In my opinion, we should have played them that Friday night. They were in town ready to play. People above me made the decision not to play that one. We were geared up and ready to play it. Look forward to playing them if we get a chance. The priority in our conference ought to be on scheduling the conference games and getting those back. There will be some problems down the road if we can't get the conference games rescheduled. I think they're working on that and hopefully something can be done... Hopefully we can find an 11th game. I know there's a lot of smart people working on that."
On Wednesday, the coaches and players split into two groups to assist with area recovery. One volunteered at a food bank, while Frost headed the group filling sandbags in Seminole County.
"There's still problems around here," Frost said. "It was eye opening to me yesterday, going with the guys to fill sandbags. Before we went, the Seminole County Sheriff's Department showed us video of all the damage up there. It was eye opening. They say the worst flooding still hasn't come yet, a lot of water is going to drain to that area. They showed us picture after picture of houses that are underwater. More that are close and are going to be in trouble. This wasn't a small event. I think driving around an urban setting kind of gives you a little bit of a incomplete look at the damage it did. When you drive around some of those rural parts of Seminole County and I know there's other parts hit, it's bad. The National Guard told us they rescued 50 people out of their homes in Orlando, just west of here. Some people weren't hit very bad, but others had a lot of damage."
Frost called Thursday's practice "sloppy" though that was expected with the week layover.
"A little rust on them," Frost said. "That's why we're practicing today and tomorrow to try and get that off, and trying to back in a routine next week... There's some Maryland prep today. The emphasis today was shaking the rust off. A lot of ones vs. ones to get some good on good, and some blocking, tackling and coverage and try to get them back into playing condition."