Postponing Duke-UNC was the right call, but the game could have been saved
Elysia Su / The Chronicle
Apparently not everyone agreed.
Wednesday's basketball game at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill was postponed because of the winter storm in the area. In a press release, UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham stated that safety was the main reasoning behind postponing the contest.
"Duke's bus [was] not able to get to their campus to pick up the team in time to be able to make the trip to Chapel Hill so we can't play this evening," Cunningham said. "The safety of the teams and officials is the number one priority and this was the best decision to make at this time."
Cunningham raises a great point: driving from Durham to Chapel Hill starting in the evening would have been a safety hazard. Students at Duke and North Carolina may have enjoyed having no class (Durham Academy sent this gem to students today in light of school cancelations), but driving on the roads Wednesday with 2-4 inches of snow on the ground was difficult to say the least.
I'm from Virginia, so I'm not going to give the same "this isn't real snow" lecture that all of your friends from the North are probably giving you. We get it guys, it snows more in the North and southerners don't know how to react to snowfall. Regardless, it was a difficult day to drive for anyone.
However, I do not believe that canceling the Duke-North Carolina game was the right decision.
Let's start with the obvious: safety concerns. Despite everything I just mentioned about driving, as of noon Wednesday there was no precipitation. Duke's classes were canceled as of 10 a.m. Wednesday morning. The weather was going to be bad Wednesday evening. With all of this accounted for, why not travel to Chapel Hill earlier in the day? I know we don't always see eye-to-eye with our neighbors down Snow-bacco Road, but I'm fairly positive both athletic departments could have found time for both teams to practice before the game in the Dean Dome. Additionally, since both Duke and North Carolina had no class Wednesday, wouldn't it make sense to think ahead and travel a whopping eight miles down the road so inclement weather wouldn't be an issue?
If for no other reason, think about the fans. This year, the average ticket price for the game was $332, the cheapest in any of the past four years by almost 20 percent, according to data from SeatGeek.com. Prices could be impacted by a less sexy matchup (No. 8 Duke against unranked North Carolina isn't exactly must-see TV), but apparently fans weren't going to be stopped by snow. Numerous images on Twitter today, such as this one or this one, all showed fans actually leaving their cars on the side of the highway so they could walk the rest of the way to the Dean Dome. We're not talking a few blocks; no no, we're talking miles... in the snow. I picture fans sprinting to Chapel Hill, reaching the top of the stairs of the Dean Dome and screaming, "There can only be one highlander!"
Lastly, there's the difficult schedule that the Blue Devils now face. In a span of eight days, Duke will play four games against Maryland, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Syracuse. The last two games against the Tar Heels and the Orange will be played in a three-day period. It's not the scariest stretch in the world, but it is certainly demanding this late in conference play.
I do not disagree with the decision to postpone the game. I simply wish that both schools had taken the necessary steps to ensure the game would be played.