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We’ve finally figured out hurricanes and football don’t mix

What to expect when Hurricane Florence hits the Carolinas coast

From extreme rainfall to 9-foot storm surges, here is what to expect when Hurricane Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas.
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From extreme rainfall to 9-foot storm surges, here is what to expect when Hurricane Florence makes landfall in the Carolinas.

It seems unlikely that we’ve all gotten collectively smarter. Maybe we learned something from the shambolic football games played amid the remnants of Hurricane Matthew, while a chunk of the eastern part of the state was underwater. Maybe Florence is just that scary.

For once, sanity prevailed ahead of the storm.

Non-football sporting events were canceled or postponed, as usual, but college football is always the sticking point.

Because of television.

Because of money.

Two years after the Matthew debacle, when North Carolina hosted Virginia Tech, Duke hosted Army and N.C. State hosted Notre Dame in torrential downpours while the governor was begging people to stay home, not only will no college football be played here this weekend, those decisions were made well in advance. And sensibly so.

Even if the forecasts turn out to be blessedly wrong, if Florence fizzles, there should be no second-guessing the decisions to cancel North Carolina’s and N.C. State’s home games against Central Florida and West Virginia, respectively -- and, for slightly different reasons, East Carolina’s game at Virginia Tech.

College football games put tens of thousands of people on roads that need to be empty and require the services of hundreds of first responders who are needed elsewhere. When the forecast is as biblical as it is for Florence, college football is an unnecessary luxury.

If you play it, they will come. The only answer, in these circumstances, is not to play.

That seems obvious, but has been a long time coming. For too long, the prevailing wisdom was to play, which is how we ended up with the farcical Matthew weekend. And maybe it takes that kind of experience to come to that kind of realization, if Virginia Tech’s baffling narcissism after East Carolina quite reasonably pulled out of Saturday’s game in Blacksburg is any indication.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock publicly criticized the Pirates for unilaterally deciding Tuesday not to play instead of waiting for Virginia Tech to make a decision after further monitoring the forecast. That’s not a luxury any resident of Greenville has when there’s a chance the Tar River could overflow yet again – and to that point, the football team has already fled to Florida, where it could end up staying ahead of next week’s game at South Florida.

Babcock, to his credit, later said it wasn’t his intent to minimize the issues Greenville was facing, but a since-deleted VT tweet seemed to pile on, pointing out Virginia Tech’s watery success “in the teeth of Hurricane Matthew” in Chapel Hill in 2016 – inadvertently mocking many of the Hokies’ own fans, easily incensed since at any hint weather might have played a role in that victory.

East Carolina has been through this before. (And here, the obligatory mention of the 1999 win over Miami at Carter-Finley Stadium, with the Pirates in the midst of a prolonged displacement after their campus was left awash by Hurricane Floyd.) The Pirates weren’t going to leave their fate in anyone else’s hands.

They know better.

Even the Carolina Hurricanes, who already had closed their first few training-camp practices to the public and require no government assistance, obtained special dispensation from the NHL to start a day ahead of everyone else Thursday afternoon, allowing them to hunker down Friday or Saturday as needed.

When it comes to hurricanes, nobody knows nothing. The weather might not be all that bad Saturday, and if that’s the case, there will be a few fans screaming about how everyone overreacted and deprived them of their God-given right to watch football.

The reality is this: Given the forecast early this week, there was only one decision to make for the weekend.

Around here, we’ve learned that the hard way.

Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock
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