If Only…Random Musings on the Postponement Debacle of the Duke – University of North Carolina Basketball Game
By Randy Dunson
As preface, this short article (Op-Ed if you will) is based on my own thoughts and opinions and is not to be construed as representing the thoughts of any other institution, persons, etc.
The date was Wednesday, February 12, 2014. The stage was being assembled for one of the nation’s fiercest sports rivalries, Duke versus UNC in Round 1 of the so-called “Battle of the Blues”. There was just one problem, well many really, but front and center was ‘Mother Nature’, and she had other things in mind. In the two days prior to this event, all of the local weather forecasters, including the National Weather Service (NWS), had forewarned everyone who cared to listen that a severe winter storm was on track to hit the Triangle area on that fateful Wednesday. Apparently, few, including those interested in the game, heeded the warning.
I will not go into a fully detailed timeline as it has been fully documented in the mainstream media and by the NWS. Suffice it to say, the timing of the postponement was far too late for all concerned. The ‘blame game’ lit up social media like a firecracker! Frankly, I feel that blame is an appropriate term in this situation. It should be shared equally, but unfortunately, that was not the case based on the facts already reported in other media sources. A good case-in-point was that UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham actually created much of the ‘hoopla’ when in an interview he clearly indicated that the sole cause of the postponement was the failure of the Duke team bus to reach Duke’s campus to shuttle the team to Chapel Hill. Sure, that indeed was a factor but one of many, which apparently he failed to elaborate on. To remain fully unbiased, Duke Assistant Sports Information Director Matt Plizga said “…school officials were monitoring the weather as the storm hit with full force around 1:30 PM and began contemplating a proper departure time…” Did both individuals not bother taking into account the numerous advisories issued by the NWS, the traffic snarl including multiple traffic accidents (some severe), and finally, NC Governor Pat McCrory pleading with people (which I think would include athletic teams and their fans) to stay off the roads and “not put their stupid hats on” by venturing out into harm’s way.
When we look at the big picture, the following parties share equal blame for not postponing the game in a much timelier manner in my opinion. They are, in alphabetical order, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Duke University, RAYCOM Sports, the University of North Carolina, and the State of North Carolina government. We subsequently learned that the ACC ultimately makes decisions on postponements and makeup dates, and that it is not left up to individual schools. However, that was after the fact. Why did it take so long to finally make an announcement, which came at approximately 5:45 PM (and only from UNC to my knowledge), long after many diehard fans (mostly UNC by most accounts) had already hit the treacherous roads to reach the game? My answer is a lack of truly coordinated communication by all parties concerned that put everyone’s safety first instead of trying to abide by the ACC’s rule that if the two teams and at least two referees are present, then play on. Of course, let us all not forget the almighty dollar. Who paid the cost for RAYCOM’s loss of unused satellite time, travel expenses, etc.? Perhaps I missed it but I have yet to see anything published regarding loss of revenue to any one party involved, regardless if the game is still being played at a later date.
In conclusion, this turned out to be a bit longer than planned, but that often happens when one sets out to write a ‘big picture’ piece. Anyway, the bottom line is that the overall network of systems failed due to, and I hearken back to the infamous line in the classic movie “Cool Hand Luke”, “What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate”. If only the ‘powers to be’ had communicated as to just how dangerous this storm really was and issued a joint communiqué much, much earlier instead of leaking bits and pieces over the course of an hour late in the day, when it was already too late. All of the angst, blame, etc. would have been a figment of the imagination. Now, we can hopefully put this behind us, barring another storm (!), and play Round 1 of the “Battle of the Blues” on Wednesday, February 20.