With hurricane recovery efforts underway in Gainesville, Florida, 24 officers from the University of Tennessee Police Department will travel there on Saturday to assist with game-day security.
“Due to hurricane relief efforts, Florida law enforcement and their partners are spread very thin right now,” Troy Lane, associate vice chancellor for public safety and chief of police, “We felt the need to help out in any way we can.”
Despite the hurricane’s effects, university officials announced Tuesday that the UT–Florida game would be held as planned on Saturday in Gainesville. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. EDT.
Hurricane Irma has flooded and devastated neighborhoods, downed trees, and snarled traffic in a swath that covers much of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Lane spoke to University of Florida Police Department on Wednesday morning to work out the details.
“They welcomed our offer to send assistance for the game,” he said, adding that his counterparts in Florida said the campus is still dealing with power outages and spotty cell phone coverage.
Lane said he asked for volunteers to go to Florida, and more than the needed number stepped forward. The group will leave Friday, attend an early morning briefing in Gainesville on Saturday, work various details at the game, and then return to Knoxville on Sunday.
Even with 24 officers going, there will be plenty of officers remaining behind.
“We will not leave ourselves shorthanded here in Knoxville,” he said.
Lane said he expects the University of Florida to reimburse UT for expenses associated with the effort out of their routine game-day security funds.
“The UT–Florida matchup is a rivalry, but at the end of the day we want the same thing—to make sure people are safe.”