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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM

Sunday Morning Lights: So much for the student-athlete

Texas A&M is waiting for the turnstile to click so it can move on to the SEC. Pitt and Syracuse just bought one-way tickets to the ACC. The Oklahoma schools are making eyes at the Pac-12.

Anybody out there think this is a good thing for the student-athlete? (Oh, yeah, him/her.)

That concept was chucked to the dumpster Saturday night in Tulsa, where a college-football game began at 12:16 a.m. and ended at 3:35 in the morning. I’ve heard of TV-starved conferences playing basketball games at odd hours, but never a football game, with all its game-management and health issues, taking place in the wee hours.

But this is the season not only of the conference carousel, but of apocalyptic weather. Maybe somebody’s trying to tell us we’ve taken all this realignment too far. Two weeks ago, games at West Virginia and Michigan were weather-truncated and one at Notre Dame was delayed.

Over the weekend, there were three lightning delays in Albuquerque for the Texas Tech-New Mexico game, and the Baylor-Stephen F. Austin game at Waco ended after three quarters because of lightning.

For perseverance – feel free to substitute “obstinacy” or “stupidity” — it was hard to top Tulsa-Oklahoma State. The game wasn’t supposed to start until 9:10 p.m. anyway, to accommodate Fox Sports Network television, something Mike Gundy, OSU’s coach, criticized Monday on the Big 12 conference call.

“Our APRs are going up, everything’s moving toward education, and we’re going to start our games at 9 o’clock?” he said.

Gundy points out that had the game started at 7 p.m. – now there’s an idea – at least it would have been in the third quarter at the time of the lightning delay. As it was, time dragged on, school officials huddled and they settled on 11:30 p.m. as the final moment after which another lightning strike would have sent everybody home. At that hour, according to the Tulsa World, they had to build in cushions for a weather clearing and for teams to warm up.
“My suggestion, once they got to 11:30 or so, was not to play the game,” said Gundy. “I had concerns about kids being out there at that time. College kids stay up late, but they don’t exert energy and try to play a football game from 1-4 in the morning.”
The show went on. No doubt it had something to do with the fact Tulsa would have had to refund admissions from an announced crowd of 24,563 – some of whom had paid $95 – to see the nation’s No. 7 football team in the Cowboys.
So what was it like playing football, or being on the sidelines, at a time when the bars have long since closed down? Oklahoma State got ahead early, Tulsa lost starting quarterback G.J. Kinne, and, whether weather and delays had anything to do with it, Gundy didn’t like what he saw even in a 59-33 victory.
“We just played kind of soft,” he said. “We didn’t keep them from moving the ball up front, guys didn’t fit (gaps) correctly. They didn’t play with as much enthusiasm as they should have.”
Gundy added: “I was kind of like a zombie. There were some people that were kind of like zombies.”
Said Bill Blankenship, Tulsa coach, Monday afternoon: “We all thought the fourth quarter dragged on quite a bit.”
Oke State is about 60 miles from Tulsa. But hanging around and playing Sunday wasn’t a great option, because each team has business this week. The Cowboys play at No. 8 Texas A&M in a battle of unbeatens, and Tulsa goes to fourth-ranked Boise State.
So they lean on the athletes. No surprise there.



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