There are few easy fixes when hurricanes force schedule changes
For UMass athletics director Ryan Bamford, the week began with a signal from the skies. Early forecasts were showing that Hurricane Matthew might impact the football team’s trip to Old Dominion, and the last thing he wanted to do was have an entire football team stuck in the Norfolk area unable to get home.
“The last thing we wanted to do was sit there for three days,” Bamford told USA TODAY Sports.
Bamford was hardly alone among his colleagues this week, as athletics directors up and down the Eastern seaboard monitored Matthew’s track and the potential havoc it would wreak in Florida.
UMass, however, didn’t have a lot of options to reschedule the game and, as an independent, didn’t have a conference office to help smooth the process. Because the Minutemen end the season with a Nov. 19 game at BYU and then an immediate trip from there to Hawaii, where it will play Nov. 26, it didn’t make sense to fly back and play another road game the first weekend in December.
Essentially, the choices were to move the Old Dominion game to Friday before the weather is supposed to hit that area or just cancel it entirely.
But changing travel plans on short notice with an entire football team — even by a day — is more complicated than it sounds. It wasn’t until midday Wednesday, in fact, that UMass had secured a new charter airplane to transport the team on Thursday afternoon.
And that doesn’t even take into consideration rebooking hotel rooms for more than 100 people and dealing with charter buses and catered meals that all had to be moved up by a day.
“It hasn’t been easy,” Bamford said. “My staff has been working on it for the last 48 hours. The charter company had to source a plane from another area of the country to get here, and there’s an added cost to that we’re still trying to figure out.
“We’re thinking it’s going to be $35-$40,000, and ODU is going to help defray that cost so we obviously want to play the game and they want to play it, but biting off another $40,000 to get this moved within 48 hours was a lot to consider. Everything else worked well. The hotels were great, the bus company was great, rental cars, all that stuff worked well from the first call. We got that shifted, thank goodness, but the flight was the one literally took us two days.”
The complications involved with even slight changes to a scheduled football game help explain why the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference did not make final decisions regarding games in Miami, Gainesville, Fla., and Columbia, S.C. until late Thursday.
Florida-LSU scheduled for Saturday in Gainesville was postponed, and the SEC says it is looking for a reschedule date that works for both teams. Georgia at South Carolina was postponed until Sunday, time still to be determined.
One exception in the storm’s impact area was Tulane at UCF, which was scheduled for Friday night but canceled early Wednesday. The difference there was the teams had matching bye weeks on Nov. 5, making it a pretty easy call for UCF and the American Athletic Conference office.
Tulane athletics director Troy Dannen said several alternatives were considered including moving the game to New Orleans or finding a stadium somewhere in between to play the game. They also thought about playing it Saturday, but that would have required flying into the storm’s path on Friday.
In the end, though, moving it to November was the least messy solution.
“Without the matching bye dates, it would have been a much different process for us,” Dannen said. “We pretty much decided it wasn’t going to be played (on Tuesday night) but wanted to see if the models kept moving it west. When the models affirmed everything they’d been seeing that’s when the trigger got pulled.”
COACHING CAROUSEL CLIPS
Charlie Strong’s decision to demote Vance Bedford marked the second consecutive week in which a major program decided to change defensive coordinators midseason. The prior Sunday, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly fired Brian VanGorder and elevated Greg Hudson, who already was on staff in an analyst position.
The Fighting Irish certainly didn’t look much better last Saturday against Syracuse, yielding 33 points and 489 total yards, and it remains to be seen how Strong taking control of Texas’ defense will affect the Longhorns on Saturday against Oklahoma.
But there’s no doubt head coaches are more apt these days to shake up their staffs during the season if the situation becomes desperate enough. Former Texas coach Mack Brown, now an ESPN analyst, made a similar move two games into 2013 season when he fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and replaced him with veteran college and pro coach Greg Robinson.
Though Brown has high regard for Diaz, who has totally rebuilt his reputation with strong defenses at Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State and currently Miami, it was the only way he could see for Texas to save its season — which it did, to some degree, by staying in the Big 12 title race until the final week.
“(Diaz) is a tremendous coach but it wasn’t working, and in modern-day football if it’s not working you have to try to fix it yourself or change it,” Brown told USA TODAY Sports. “And my feeling was that after two weeks and some tough games the year before, I felt like we needed to change it immediately. You also have to decide if you change it, is it going to be better? I happened to have Greg Robinson there who could help me, and I trusted him and (he) made it better and ended up having a chance to play for a conference championship against Baylor in the last game and Greg was a huge part of that.”
FAUX PAS OF THE WEEK
In the midst of a disappointing 3-2 start, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson went public this week with a complaint that has been simmering behind the scenes for the last several years. Asked about the strength of the ACC following Monday’s practice, Johnson talked about how this isn’t the same ACC of 20 years ago where there might just be one ranked team.
“For whatever reason, other schools have committed to it, they’re committed to having a good program,” Johnson told reporters.
But when someone followed up and asked if Georgia Tech’s commitment to winning football is going to be the first conversation he has with recently hired athletics director Todd Stansbury, Johnson went off the rails and sounded a bit whiny given that he’s only won three of his last 14 games against FBS opponents.
“Here’s what has to happen,” Johnson said. “No matter what you do, commitment has to meet expectations. You can’t have expectations with no commitment. It won’t work no matter what you do. So if you say you want to be on this level, you have to be committed to be on that level and you have to do what those people are doing. Simple as that.”
Asked if he felt he was getting that at Georgia Tech, Johnson shot back: “Compared to who? I don’t know that anybody gets that but I think you could ask that about anybody, but what I’m saying is…You guys look, you don’t have to ask me. Do you think we got the same thing Clemson does? So how can the expectation be to beat them?”
Johnson isn’t wrong. Georgia Tech doesn’t have the same resources as Clemson or Florida State, but it also doesn’t have as big of a fan base and deals with different academic requirements. Part of the reason Johnson has succeeded at Tech is because his triple-option system helps level the playing field. And for a decade, he’s won at a pretty high level even without the fanciest facilities or biggest administrative staff.
Now that his program is in a rut, it just sounds like an excuse, which his fan base isn’t in the mood to hear.
Remember Quinn Nordin, the kicker Jim Harbaugh wanted to sign so badly that he showed up at 12:01 a.m. on the first day of recruiting and slept over in his parents’ guest room? Well, Nordin has been injured this season but is apparently healthy now and ready to compete for the starting job.
Michigan’s kicking game has been one blotch on its otherwise terrific start this season, as its kickers have combined to make just four of nine field goals. Nordin returned to practice this week, and Harbaugh had an interesting quote about the ongoing kicker evaluation.
“We’re looking for someone to put their iron jock on and put the ball through the uprights,” Harbaugh said during his weekly 97.1-FM radio appearance, according to mlive.com.
DUD OF THE WEEK
Florida International was the first school this season to fire its coach, letting go of Ron Turner after starting 0-4. UTEP could very well be headed toward the same result, having lost four consecutive games by a combined score of 169-35. Simply put, these are two awful teams and rank as the two worst in all of FBS according to the Sagarin ratings. They play each other Saturday in El Paso, so congratulations if you’re a fan of either team and can actually sit through it. Otherwise, feel free to hide your eyes.
This article was selected for educational purposes only.
Jennifer M. Condaras
Deputy Commissioner, NCAA Relations & Administration
Colonial Athletic Association
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