Official word to postpone tonight's 9 p.m. Carolina-Duke tilt came at 5:40 p.m. amid miserable winter weather conditions. Several initial reports incorrectly credited the weather as the sole reason for the postponement. Fortunately, Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham showed us a sliver of another reason.
"Duke's bus is not able to get to their campus to pick up the team in time to be able to make the trip to Chapel Hill, so we can't play this evening," he said. "The safety of the teams and officials is the number one priority, and this was the best decision to make at this time. Coach Williams, Coach Krzyzewski, (Duke AD) Kevin White and I will be on the phone with the ACC and will make a decision as to when to play the game as soon as possible."
ACC rules dictate that a game must be played if the officials and teams can get to the game safely. Fans are not considered in the rules, but it is true that upwards of 20,000 people will be safer without a game to attend tonight.
However, I can't not mention a few facts that, when paired with some reasonable assumptions, could tell an additional story.
Because driving was predicted to be dangerous around 8 p.m., Carolina planned to admit students to fill the empty seats of the ticket holders who would stay home. This happened twice before in the history of the Dean Dome, and the result was a student section so large that it filled pretty much the entire lower level and then some. Typically, alumni fill the seats that are closest to the court while students are dispersed in random sections throughout the arena. You can imagine the difference when you stack this deck with 10,000 wild cards. If I was an opposing player, I'd prefer the alumni in the front rows. I wonder which seating plan Duke prefers?
The officials were ready to go. ESPN had put its equipment in place more than 24 hours ahead of tip-off. Clearly, nearly everyone who was necessary to the execution and broadcast of the game was well aware of the conditions and planned accordingly. Everyone except, perhaps, the Blue Devils.
Duke's players had to attend their afternoon classes, you might say.
You'd be wrong. At 9:31 a.m. Duke canceled all classes effective at 12:50 p.m. The Duke athletic department had all morning to figure out how to get its team on the eight-mile ride to Chapel Hill eight hours before tip-off to avoid the expected weather complications. Instead, they either stuck with a departure time that was set last summer or were the victims of a lousy bus company. If they knew the bus would be late, they could have used any of a few hundred beat-up yellow school buses.
Cunningham got it right. Postponing the game was the best and only decision to make at the time of the decision. I just wonder what was going on over at Duke after 9:30 this morning.
From my comfortable couch in Asheville, it appeared that Duke was just plain scared.