A college basketball rain cancellation leaves coach 'perplexed,' sparks controversy

Yahoo Sports
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy. (Getty)
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy. (Getty)

Texas A&M was supposed to play a men’s basketball game on Saturday. Boston College was supposed to be the opponent. Thanks to rain and travel complications, that game will not be played.

But the cancellation is only part of a story that now involves lawyers, involved the NCAA, and has devolved into frustration and bickering across the board. Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said he was “perplexed.” Nobody is happy. And there are contrasting accounts of the negotiations that undid the game.

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So what the heck happened?

Why Boston College didn’t travel

Rain soaked College Station, Texas, and the surrounding area on Friday, forcing Boston College to rearrange its travel plans.

The Eagles had been scheduled to fly south on Friday in advance of Saturday’s 5 p.m. CT tip. On Friday afternoon and evening, the weather forced them to make “a slight alteration to today’s travel itinerary.” After some GPS trouble, they arrived at Hanscom Field, a public use airport, and were prepared to make the trip.

That is, until they – and presumably the pilot of their chartered flight – saw this:


Per an official Boston College statement:

The Eagles were originally scheduled to depart Hanscom Field at 2 p.m. ET for [a] five-hour, 15-minute charter flight [] to College Station, however, the CRJ-700 aircraft was grounded due to a mechanical issue that could not be repaired.  An alternate ERJ-145 aircraft was slated to arrive to transport the team at 3:30 p.m. ET, but arrived four hours late.

 

During that time, weather conditions throughout eastern Texas and the surrounding areas deteriorated.  The pilot of the ERJ-145 and the charter airline – Via Airlines – deemed it unsafe to fly.  With the change in aircraft, the revised flight plan would have necessitated a fueling stop in Atlanta, putting the travel duration from Boston to College Station at over six hours.

So B.C. couldn’t fly Friday. For safety reasons. Completely rational. Right? What about Saturday?

Texas A&M, Boston College officials offer conflicting accounts

A&M’s eventual official statement was very curt. But one source close to the situation made it very clear: A&M officials blame B.C. for the cancellation. There was, the source said, “zero attempt on their part to get here last night.”

The source also reasoned that other planes were landing at Easterwood Airport Friday night, presumably meaning B.C. could have flown as originally scheduled. A&M officials, the source said, urged B.C. to fly into another Texas city – perhaps Dallas, or Waco – and bus to College Station. But the pilot and charter airline, per B.C., deemed such trips unsafe.

The controversy then rolled over to Saturday morning. Athletic directors got involved. The two head coaches, Kennedy and Jim Christian, got involved. A Houston Chronicle story stated that Boston College “declined to play on the same day they travel.” A Boston College official denied that was the case in an email to Yahoo Sports.

“We asked A&M to move the game back to 9 p.m. on Saturday night and would have been willing to leave Boston this [morning] and play the game later tonight,” the official told Yahoo Sports. “They declined to accommodate that request.”

Eventually, the schools did agree to push tipoff back. A&M’s offer was 7 p.m. CT. But that compromise was reached Saturday morning. Had it been reached Friday night, “we would have likely landed in College Station a short time ago,” the Boston College official said shortly after 2 p.m. CT.

Instead, B.C. wanted to play Sunday. “Initial conversations between the schools indicated that Reed Arena was available on Sunday to accommodate a rescheduled contest,” Boston College’s statement read.

But then it wasn’t. For various logistical reasons – fan travel, academics (A&M is in the middle of finals) – A&M ruled out Sunday as an option.

When it became clear the game would not be played at all, A&M officials, the source said, pursued the possibility that the cancellation could constitute a forfeiture. After talks with the NCAA, it was deemed a mere “no contest.” But some at A&M, the source said, believe it could constitute a breach of the contract the two schools signed when they agreed to their non-conference series. Lawyers on both sides, the source said, are “in the loop.”

Meanwhile, some fans are fuming. A&M is offering refunds for tickets. Both teams have lost a key non-conference game. Kennedy, in addition to being “perplexed,” said in his one-line statement that he was “disappointed.”

A&M’s belief is essentially that, at some point, Boston College simply decided it didn’t want to play. Boston College’s claim is that safety precluded basketball. That, as AD Martin Jarmond said in a statement, “the safety and well-being of our student-athletes is paramount.” 

It’s unclear what, if anything, the resolution will be. It is clear that the situation quickly became a rain-soaked mess.

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Henry Bushnell is a features writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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