Chapel Hill: Sports

The games don’t always have to go on

It would seem incumbent upon the sports editor of a Chapel Hill Newspaper to find some way to castigate Duke for failing to make it to the Smith Center for a hugely anticipated basketball game.

But I can’t do that.

And if a collegiate power has to postpone a major game, what does that say about local high schools?

Duke administrators deserve some credit for their decision to eschew busing their players during last week’s major snow storm.

They must have known they were going to get some ribbing from Tar Heel fans, if not some outright criticism for forcing the televised game to be rescheduled.

I must admit my first impulse was do just that.

As soon as the decision was announced, my Facebook page was hit with some conspiracy theories. A popular theory held that Duke had learned that North Carolina planned to throw open the doors of the Smith Center to any student who could make it there on foot. The affluent whine-and-cheese ticket holders at midcourt would be replaced by screaming youngsters worthy of any boy band fan base.

Why go to all that trouble to plow through one of the worst storms in years just to walk into a hornet’s nest?

That Pitt’s women’s team made it to town that afternoon from RDU Airport – farther than Duke from Chapel Hill – for their own game with Carolina just helped feed the snark.

The idea that Duke was ducking a tough game were shot down by a colleague here at the newspaper, whose spouse works close to the old South Square in Durham – closer than Duke to Chapel Hill. A car ride from there to New Hope Commons, started within minutes of the snowfall beginning Wednesday, required almost two hours.

So, it was wise of the Blue Devils never to have set off on that trek.

And so it was for the local schools.

A multitude of significant events were postponed last Thursday-Friday-Saturday, events many people wanted to get finished. Among them:

• The last regular-season basketball games for the PAC-6 and Big Eight conferences. Schools were still waiting on Monday night’s results to finalize conference tournaments. These were big games. Chapel Hill and Orange both had basketball teams playing for first place in their respective leagues. The Chapel Hill girls were trying to put a ribbon on what could be their program’s first undefeated season.

• The NCHSAA’s wrestling regionals also were delayed, pushed all the way into Sunday – the first time in memory that the state organizing body sanctioned a one-day regional on that day.

• Durham Academy had to host the semifinals and finals of the Triangle Independent Schools’ conference tournament on Saturday. No one can recall any previous time the TISAC held so many games in one day at one site.

In both basketball and wrestling, schools already had been coping with jammed up schedules caused by sub-freezing temperatures and snow about two weeks before.

The N.C. High School Athletics Association, the independent conferences and their members demonstrated prudent judgment in handling the postponements.

The NCHSAA indeed has many rules designed to protect students and to prevent their overwork by over-eager coaches. The common forebearance of games on Sunday is one of those guidelines, as is the prohibition of more than five wrestling matches in one day for any one athlete.

State officials emailed schools well in advance last week that Sunday events should be avoided if possible, but were allowed. The limit of five matches a day for wrestlers would stand. Sorry, but organizers would just have to adjust.

In the end, it all worked out. Most conference basketball tournaments are back on track this week. The wrestling regionals were finished and qualifiers announced.

In an age when so many schools administrators give slavish devotion to “zero-tolerance” policies, budget requirements and system regulations, it was refreshing to see athletics officials display such flexibility.