Utah Utes grounded in Florida after charter flight has mechanical issues

The Utes’ charter flight, scheduled to depart at midnight, experiences mechanical issues.

(Phelan M. Ebenhack | AP) Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III (1) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Gainesville, Fla. The Utes were grounded again as they tried to leave Florida when their charter flight from Gainesville Regional Airport experienced mechanical issues.

All the University of Utah football team wanted Saturday night following its season-opening loss to Florida was to get out of the state and its lung-crushing humidity. But the swamp won’t let it leave.

The Utes’ charter flight, scheduled to depart Gainesville Regional Airport around midnight following the game, was delayed because of mechanical issues, according to a Twitter post made by Utes communications director Paul Kirk early Sunday.

The flight was rescheduled for 4:10 am EDT but did not leave at that time, either. According to a tweet by ESPN commentator Dan Orlovskythe team sat in the plane on the tarmac during the four-hour delay before being unloaded.

Photos posted at 5:25 am show players sprawled out on the floor of the airport and on benches as they awaited their flight.

The team is “working on alternative plans to return the team to SLC as quickly as possible,” Kirk wrote. In the meantime, he said, the University of Florida has offered to help with accommodations for the team and traveling party. Utes athletic director Mark Harlan later tweeted in response to this article that the Gators had provided a hotel partner, buses and meals. He said he expected Utah to be able to charter a flight home by the end of the day.

Some members of the coaching staff were able to book tickets back on a flight out of Jacksonville, according to KSL sports reporter Josh Furlong. He posted on Twitter that he saw the coaches on his flight leaving that airport Sunday morning.

“Looking like they’re trying to get them home however they can,” he wrote.

The Utes, who started the season ranked No. 7 in the country, lost 29-26 to the unranked Gators after a drive deep into Florida territory in the final seconds ended with quarterback Cam Rising throwing an interception in the end zone.

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