Penn State vs. UCF Season Opener Threatened by Potential Volcanic Eruption

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2014

Getty Images

Football is billed as the game that can be played in all conditions. Rain, snow, sleet, hail. You name it, a football game has likely been played in it. 

It seems the exception might be a volcanic eruption nearly 900 miles away.    

A report from The Associated Press (via ESPN) indicated the season-opening contest between Penn State and Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland, onAug. 30 might be in jeopardy due to increased volcanic activity in Iceland. The country's Civil Protection Department said residents near the stratovolcano Bardarbunga have been evacuated as a safety precaution.

Although Iceland and Ireland are nowhere close to one another—the distance from Dublin to Bardarbunga is roughly 875 miles—the AP notes travel restrictions may force the schools to stay home. Airborne particles and ash could make air travel untenable for a significant period of time.

The two teams are scheduled to play at Croke Park, the first time either university has played in a game overseas. Notre Dame and Navy most recently played in Ireland in 2012.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

For Penn State, the logistics of going across the pond for one game has already been a logistical headache. Travis Johnson of the Centre Daily Times profiled the difficulties of the process, which include transporting player equipment, ensuring personnel have updated passports and numerous smaller things that could complicate the entire trip. 

“It’s an ongoing, fluid process,” Michael Hazel, Penn State's director of football operations, told Johnson. “It’s a challenge. There’s just a lot of moving parts that exist when you are going overseas.”

The news of a possible volcanic eruption in another country was a complication for which no one could have planned. The unpredictability factor means the teams could be barred from flying into the country or, even worse, not allowed to fly out after the game.

Penn State is scheduled to host Akron on Sept. 6. In 2010, an Icelandic eruption caused more than 100,000 flights to be canceled. It is unclear how long flights would be delayed or canceled in this case—or if they would be canceled at all.

"We're aware of that, and we're monitoring that situation," Hazel told reporters. "That's kind of out of our area of expertise." 

John Raoux/Associated Press

UCF does not play again until Sept. 13, so it has a slightly larger margin for error. Neither school has indicated whether a contingency plan is in place in case flights are canceled. UCF visited Penn State last season, so one would assume the Knights would have first hosting rights. The sides will also want to get the matter solved quickly for students, alumni and fans who are following their team across the Atlantic Ocean.

Unfortunately, the volcano is likely unaware a football game hinges on its decision whether or not to erupt. (If the volcano is aware, well, that's another conversation—and hopefully a reality show—entirely.)

For now, it seems both sides are satisfied crossing their fingers and hoping this is a false alarm.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.