Originally created 08/28/00

Weather postpones season opener



BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The only thunder and lightning Georgia Tech expected Sunday night was from Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Vick.

Mother Nature, however, proved to bring more game than the Heisman Trophy candidate.

Rain and lightning forced a postponement of Sunday night's BCA Bowl Game at Lane Stadium, possibly forcing the preseason game past Thanksgiving.

When the monsoon hit, 55,000 fans and both football teams played their own game of Survivor by heading to the bowels of the stadium and away from the aluminum seats that make up a large portion of the stadium. There were no alliances and no tribunals when lightning started bouncing off cars and trees that surround Worsham Field. It was every man for himself.

The Hokies and Yellow Jackets huddled in hallways under the stadium for more than an hour before making a dash to their locker rooms at nearby Cassell Coliseum.

Both teams were on the field -- Georgia Tech set to receive the ball -- when lightning and heavy rain chased both teams back to the locker room and most fans from the bleachers. Officials from both schools, the promoters, the referees and ESPN then met for 20 minutes before turning the delay into a postponement at 9:03 p.m. -- 58 minutes past the scheduled kickoff. A makeup date, if any, hasn't been determined.

"We had been called off the field for lightning before, but we had always been called back," said Yellow Jackets coach George O'Leary. "Electricity and water are two things you don't fool around with. In the best interests of the players, I think we made the right decision."

"I would hope we would play," said Virginia Tech Athletics Director Jim Weaver. "We don't want to get athletes hurt on a field like this in a preseason game. That wouldn't be fair."

What prompted the decision to postpone the game was word of a second thunderstorm approaching the area. Radar showed the second storm to be more severe than the first, Weaver said.

The date both schools tentatively agreed to play is Dec. 1. Since that date is a Friday -- and the NCAA has a rule against Friday games to avoid competition with high school football -- Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech would both have to petition the NCAA. Since the college regular season would be complete, they hope the NCAA would make an exception.

The coaches from both teams, however, may vote not to play at all.

"Each school must converse with its coaching staff and think through the entire scenario to determine whether it's feasible to do this," Weaver said.

"I was really looking forward to playing this game," O'Leary said. "Both teams had questions to be answered. Frank (Beamer, Virginia Tech coach) probably had fewer than I did.

"Now we'll have to look and see what the open dates are."

Playing today, however, was not an option.

"The field won't be in shape by tomorrow," Weaver said. "There's no possibility it can be done (on Monday)."

Lightning struck a car parked in a lot behind North end zone, less than 50 yards from the Virginia Tech locker room a couple minutes after the scheduled kickoff. The car burst into flames, but nobody was injured.

The last time the Yellow Jackets had a game delay by weather was 1980 at Grant Field against Florida. The last time a game was delayed at Virginia Tech was in 1974.

The last time college football game was postponed was the East Carolina-Miami game a year ago. That game was delayed a week by Hurricane Floyd. The game was originally scheduled at home for East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., but it was moved to Raleigh a week later because the college campus remained flooded by the storm.

With Sunday's rainout, Georgia Tech now has a season-opener at home next week against Central Florida.