KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – LSU’s home opener has been delayed by a hurricane once again, and this time it was Rita that forced the Tigers’ game against Tennessee scheduled for Saturday to be moved to Monday night.

The Southeastern Conference made the announcement Thursday after a conference call with school officials. The game will start at 7:30 EDT and be televised by ESPN2.

“After reviewing all of the information I felt this was the best decision for the game,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “The safety of our student-athletes, coaches and fans is our priority. I understand this puts a burden on LSU and its administration, however, the travel safety issues necessitate this decision.”

Hurricane Rita was heading toward the Texas Gulf Coast and extreme Western Louisiana on Thursday. It was expected to make landfall by late Friday or early Saturday.

LSU’s first home game against North Texas was scheduled for Sept. 3, just a few days after Katrina ravaged the New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Then LSU’s game against Arizona State, slated for Sept. 10 at Tiger Stadium, was moved to Tempe, Ariz., because of the hurricane aftermath that turned the campus into a temporary shelter, hospital and morgue. The Tigers beat Arizona State 35-31 in Tempe and haven’t played since.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was opposed to playing this weekend’s game on Saturday, believing the conditions would be unsafe for travel.

Even before Rita started making its way toward Louisiana, the Volunteers were going to have an unusual game day. With no hotel rooms available in Baton Rouge, Tennessee planned to fly into the city early Saturday for the night game.

“We’ve bent over backward to do everything we can to make this happen including going down the day of the game,” Fulmer said before the date was changed. “Obviously, if they’re sending people out of Louisiana, I don’t know why we would be going in. My (university) president will not allow that to happen. I’m sure the conference office will be on the same page.”

Fulmer said he advocated playing the game at the end of the season.

AP-ES-09-22-05 1958EDT

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