Luke DeCock

DeCock: ACC taking wider view with winter weather?

The snow and winds picked up Feb. 12, 2014 as UNC students lined up outside of the Smith Center for good seats for that night's UNC-Duke. The fast-moving snow and then ice storm Wednesday afternoon into Thursday forced a postponement of the game.
The snow and winds picked up Feb. 12, 2014 as UNC students lined up outside of the Smith Center for good seats for that night's UNC-Duke. The fast-moving snow and then ice storm Wednesday afternoon into Thursday forced a postponement of the game. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Unless conditions take a turn for the icy worse overnight, there shouldn’t be any problems with Saturday’s game between Duke and N.C. State at PNC Arena, with the forecast for snow throughout the day within the Triangle’s capability to handle.

As things stand, the show will go on, which is how the ACC prefers to handle things. This week, though, its preemptive postponement of Saturday’s Syracuse at Virginia game suggests the conference is taking a more proactive approach to how it handles winter weather.

The ACC’s policy on weather is that if the teams are on site, the game will be played. In dangerous conditions, fans will be encouraged not to attend the game, as was the case in 2014 when Duke and North Carolina were set to play in the midst of a devastating ice storm before Duke, at the last minute, said it could not make the bus trip from Durham to Chapel Hill.

That likely kept thousands of foolhardy fans off treacherous roads that night (although like Duke’s bus, they would have had trouble on Highway 15-501, which was gridlocked for hours that afternoon and evening) and raised an interesting debate about the ACC’s position.

There are certainly pragmatic reasons to play a game if it is, for the teams involved, playable. Postponements wreak havoc with schedules – basketball, arena, class and television alike – and since ACC teams are generally required to be in the area 24 hours before a game, there’s no reason for them to sit around and do nothing.

There’s a balance to be struck there, and in 2014, the ACC never found it. Duke’s bus bailed the ACC out of what could have been a very bad situation.

By the same token, discouraging fans from attending isn’t going to stop the die-hard and foolhardy from attempting to travel to the arena (particularly when it’s a local rivalry game) and the ACC can’t entirely slough off the burden it puts on an already strained public-safety apparatus by conducting a major spectator event during a winter storm.

There’s a balance to be struck there, and in 2014, the ACC never found it. Duke’s bus bailed the ACC out of what could have been a very bad situation.

All of which made Thursday’s decision to push back the Syracuse-Virginia game an interesting one. With plenty of lead time to get both teams and a set of officials to Charlottesville, this had all the makings of a game that would typically be played come sleet or snow or ice.

But faced with Syracuse potentially flying into the teeth of the storm on Friday, a weather forecast that indicated likely clearing Saturday night, and Virginia’s quick turnaround to play at Wake Forest on Monday, the ACC moved swiftly to rearrange the schedule.

The early postponement pushed the Syracuse-Virginia game to 7 p.m. Sunday and the Virginia-Wake Forest game to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and announcing the moves Thursday gave ESPN time to fill an unexpected gap in its Big Monday lineup while defusing a potentially dangerous travel situation on several fronts.

None of that is a consideration in Raleigh on Saturday at this point, although the ACC and N.C. State continue to monitor the situation.

Friday night was trickier, with widespread freezing rain expected, but the Carolina Hurricanes planned to host the New York Rangers at the arena as scheduled. Cancellations and postponements are generally rare in the NHL, in part because of scheduling and television issues associated with an 82-game regular season that leaves very little leeway for rescheduling.

Sometimes, conditions make it unavoidable (the Washington Capitals’ home game was postponed Friday), and the Hurricanes went through an unusual flurry of postponements two seasons ago thanks to weather elsewhere. More often, the show will go on, as it did to a memorably empty building post-blizzard in 2000 and 2010.

That’s typically been the ACC’s preference as well, although this week’s events appear to indicate a more flexible approach to these matters.

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

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