A possible volcanic eruption in Iceland could shake up the opening slate for two college football squads next week.
Penn State was scheduled to face Central Florida for a season-opening game in Ireland on Saturday, Aug. 30. However, scientists are reporting that a major earthquake in the region could trigger an eruption from an Icelandic volcano named Bárðarbunga.
A similar explosion from Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull happened in 2010 and that led to multiple days of closed airlines and thousands of flight delays and cancellations. Now European officials are afraid that a similar occurrence could happen soon, with more than 3,000 earthquakes being recorded in the area since Saturday.
The potential for catastrophic weather conditions in Ireland, which is relatively near to Iceland, has both teams watching the weather reports closely.
A plan long in the making
A trip to the emerald isle doesn't happen overnight.
UCF announced its travel plans more than a year ago, in July of 2013. The school put a lot into the game, coordinating a proper field with the Gaelic Athletic Association and even securing a personal travel agent to make sure interested fans could make it to the game.
UCF and Penn State administrators made the announcement in Dublin, announcing that the event would be called the Croke Park Classic and would be aired on ESPN 2.
Then-Nittany Lion coach Bill O'Brien said at the time that the whole squad was excited to play in the historic country.
"Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue," O'Brien said. "Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans."
Of course, that excitement wasn't enough to keep O'Brien from bolting to the NFL's Houston Texans this off-season.
And now, they might have difficulty pulling off the game at all.
Ash from an Icelandic eruption would very likely cover Dublin in a cloud, if it amounts to anywhere close the size of the 2010 disaster.
Officials from both schools are taking stock of the situation: expect the decision to be made at the last possible second, since neither group will be keen to shutter a match-up that has taken lots of time and money to make.
According to NFL.com, Penn State officials have reached out to Notre Dame for advice.
The Fighting Irish are a natural fit to answer such questions, not just because of their moniker but also because they played a game against Navy in Dublin in 2012.
The game isn't in complete danger of being cancelled yet, but one aviation agency has already raised alert levels leading up to it.
The Iceland Met Office has increased the aviation sector level to orange, the second level out of five, expression caution about the possible inclement weather.
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