Will they play?
That’s the looming and lingering question as forecasters predict plunging temperatures, a blustery northern wind and wintery precipitation will wreak havoc on much of south Louisiana.
“I don’t think it’s a decision that can happen today,” LSU spokesman Kent Lowe said.
LSU and Kentucky are slated for an 8 p.m. tip on Tuesday, a game that could be imperiled if those predictions work out. And we’re all left playing wait and see. Any contingency plans haven’t exactly been hatched.
“Really nothing has taken place yet,” LSU spokesman Kent Lowe said. “I’m not sure it actually can until it gets bad.”
Here’s what we know right now.
At 4:30 p.m. Monday, LSU announced that the game is still on for its original tip time. Meanwhile, James Haralson, a producer for 104.5 ESPN in Baton Rouge, tweeted that the school will make a decision by 10 a.m. Tuesday about whether to change the start time.
Ultimately, it might be the SEC that makes the final call on whether this game goes off. It may not matter if fans can’t get to the Pete Maravich Assembly Center if the state closes major roads and bridges, either. Around 2 p.m., LSU’s Emergency Operations Center announced classes were canceled, and only essential staff are asked to report to campus.
A SEC spokesman said via text message the league office stays “in contact with schools on weather-related issues like this one, but any communication to the public and media will come from LSU.”
If the start time for the game is changed, that would be a decision made between the SEC and LSU. Ultimately, the league has the final say on whether the game is postponed, the spokesman said.
“The SEC facilitates discussions between the schools to make collaborative decisions,” the spokesman said. “Depending on the severity of the situation, the responsibility of decisions on changes ranges from the home institution to the conference office. Safety of travel to the fame for teams, fans and officials are the highest priority.”
Early Wednesday evening, SEC associate commissioner Mark Whitworth, who is the league’s hoops czar, said he was in “constant contact” throughout the day with officials from UK and LSU about the situation. Yet Whitworth stressed the same point: The ultimate word will come from LSU at some point tomorrow. If the game is postponed, Commissioner Mike Slive is the man rendering the verdict.
Until a decision is reached, talk of contingency plans will be kept under wraps.
“We don’t want a muddled message with a bunch of people saying different things,” Whitworth said. “We don’t want to wind up chasing our tails.”
Obviously, TV has to be factored in and whether or not ESPN can get its crew to the site. There are TV and satellite trucks in their usual positions behind the PMAC. So, it seems the infrastructure is in place. There’s also the safety and availability of concession, security and clean-up crews that work the game, not to mention the folks along the scorer’s table.
“We’re talking to our people, ‘Do you think you can get here?’,” Lowe said. “We have to plan like the game is going to happen?”
But it appears UK and the officiating crew will be able to get into Red Stick before this ugly mess reaches town.
UK spokesman John Hayden said the No. 14 Wildcats plan to fly out of Lexington, Ky., after their practice this afternoon winds down. As you can see, the Wildcats took off earlier this afternoon, and they landed in Baton Rouge safely.
Officials are also expected to get in town tonight, too, Lowe said. If both the Tigers, Wildcats and referees can get to the PMAC without navigating major interstates or bridges, there’s a chance the biggest home game on LSU’s schedule could be played.
On the SEC coaches’ teleconference, Johnny Jones sounded as if his squad is preparing for a tilt on Tuesday.
“We’ll practice the same way,” Jones said, “getting ready to play a very challenging game, because that game’s going to be played inside — if it’s fortunate enough to be played — and we have to make sure that we get ready for that.”
The lead-in was perfect for a quip from UK coach John Calipari, who followed Jones on the call.
“I just heard Johnny say because of weather, what, we may cancel this game?” Calipari said. “Tell us before we get on this plane.”
During his meeting with reporters Monday afternoon, Jones said a potentially empty PMAC matters little. It’s still Kentucky, and a win is pivotal to add some heft to LSU’s potential postseason resume.
“That game is going to count on you won-loss record,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, LSU isn’t altering the logistics of getting players, who might live on or off campus, to the arena Tuesday, Jones said.
“We’re all pretty much close, so it’s not really a problem,” Jones siad. “We won’t change anything.”
Playing a game in a blizzard (at least by Southern standards) isn’t unprecedented. Lowe remembered being part of an Ole Miss game in 2011 where a storm dumped five inches on game day, making roads impassable and shuttering the campus in Oxford, Miss. It didn’t matter: The teams and officials could get to Tad Smith Coliseum, so the game went ahead.
“They kind of just threw open the doors and said, ‘If you can make it, great,’” Lowe said. “There were about 1,500 students at one end and about 40 people (sitting) along the side (of the court).”
For now, both teams’ shoot-arounds are still slated for tomorrow afternoon, and we wait for a verdict on whether they meet on the hardwood.
“It would really have to be a league decision,” Lowe said.