Cougs run counter play on Ike
Game moved up as storm heads for coast
What was once a college football game is now also a race against Mother Nature.
Washington State and Baylor have pushed their game from Saturday morning to tonight, in the hopes of avoiding the brunt of Hurricane Ike when it makes landfall on the Texas coast and moves inland.
Kickoff at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco will be at 5:30 p.m. PDT, and the rescheduling has scrambled the Cougars’ travel plans and television viewing options for their fans.
Fox Sports Net was to telecast the game nationally but was unable to alter its programming schedule or arrange for a crew for the new date and time. However, the network will pick up a feed from Baylor’s in-stadium video and pair it with audio from the Baylor radio broadcast; this will be made available to FSN’s regional affiliates.
But FSN Northwest is committed by contract to broadcast tonight’s Seattle Mariners game against the Los Angeles Angels beginning at 7:05, and it will not air the WSU game live. A tape-delayed broadcast is scheduled for 11 p.m.
The live feed will air on FSN Southwest – not available on Comcast in Spokane – and as part of the offerings on Fox College Sports, a premium package available to Comcast customers in Spokane on its sports entertainment tier, as well as on Dish Network and DirecTV. Comcast charges digital subscribers $5.99 a month for the sports tier, with the WSU game listed on channel 413.
The telecast and audio also will be streamed live free of charge at wsucougars.com and BaylorBears.com.
Cougars athletic director Jim Sterk said until Thursday morning, Baylor officials believed the game could be played Saturday, although kickoff might have been moved up an hour. But as the hurricane shifted, putting Waco in its anticipated path, Sterk and Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw began plotting contingencies.
“Ian felt we could get the game in fine, with maybe a little rain and wind,” Sterk said. “But then making sure we got out was an issue – and that was with a potential 10 a.m. (CDT) start. Then we started to look at Friday.”
The hurricane is projected to hit the Texas coast near Galveston and Freeport sometime early Saturday morning. Waco is 235 miles northwest of Galveston. Tonight’s forecast in Waco calls for 20 to 30 mph winds and a slight chance of rain, but conditions are expected to deteriorate overnight.
Sterk also said McCaw had reserved Texas Stadium in Irving, another 100 miles to the north, as a possible site, “but that became problematic yesterday when it looked like the freeways were going to be turning into a parking lot” by residents evacuating the coast.
Moving the game up 16 hours “is not ideal from our standpoint,” Sterk admitted.
The Cougars are booked on a Frontier Airlines charter flight out of Pullman at 9 a.m. today that is scheduled to land in Waco roughly 4 1/2 hours before kickoff. Sterk tried to find another plane for a Thursday night departure, “but on short notice those are hard to come by,” he said. Among the calls he made was one to the Seattle Seahawks, but the club sold its Boeing 757 before the 2007 season.
Sterk said he hoped the charter’s Pullman departure could be moved ahead an hour to allow the team more time on the ground before kickoff. The Cougars will fly back to Pullman after the game.
“It may not be until between 1 to 2 in the morning before we get out of there,” said coach Paul Wulff, “but that’s OK. I’d rather do that than spend the night.”
Regarding the possibility of rescheduling for another weekend, neither WSU nor Baylor had common Saturdays free until Dec. 6, and Wulff said he “didn’t want to push things that late,” particularly in light of the trip to Hawaii the Cougars will make after the Apple Cup and the recruiting calendar.
“There were a lot of factors,” he said. “Right now, we need to play. We’ll do whatever it takes to play right now and get better.”
A number of other sporting events in east Texas have been rescheduled or canceled because of Hurricane Ike, including the NFL game between Houston and Baltimore, which will be played Monday night. The first two games of the Houston Astros-Chicago Cubs baseball series have been postponed, as well, and the Arkansas-Texas college football game has been moved to Sept. 27.