On Saturday, September 27th, Zable Stadium was to host the
Tribe’s first home football game of the year against the
University of Maine. Then, Isabel. In a story that has become all too familiar,
students and staff alike sought repose from the storm’s
wrath before facing well over a week of cleanup efforts
before the reopening of the college. The athletic
department, in the week following Isabel, faced the unique
hardship of trying to coordinate and reschedule athletic
events that otherwise would have been held on campus. Three
events were relocated: Field Hockey played on VCU grounds in
Richmond, men’s soccer played in the Old Dominion Stadium in
Norfolk, and volleyball swapped the locations of their two
matches with UNC Wilmington.
Then, there was football. Coming off a rough loss on the road against Northeastern, the W&M football team looked forward to playing in Williamsburg for the first time this year. This was not to be. Extensive tree damage and prolonged power outage was still a fact of life on Tuesday, September 23rd, when school President Timothy Sullivan canceled the football game.
The decision was met with immediate concern and criticism. University of Maine athletic director Patrick Nero called the decision “inconsistent” with efforts to reschedule and relocate other William and Mary athletic events. A Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial bemoaned the “ill-advised” decision of the W&M administration. Even ESPN, a network not apt to carry news on Atlantic 10 football, highlighted the game cancellation as another unfortunate turn of events precipitated by Isabel.
Some efforts were made to play the game, however. The University of Maine offered to host the game in Orono, pay the Tribe’s travel expenses, and donate any proceeds from the game to a William & Mary hurricane relief fund. Reportedly, Maine also considered playing the game at an alternate location in Virginia, still offering to pay the Tribe’s travel expenses. William and Mary declined both offers. Because of these events, the Atlantic 10 office in Philadelphia awarded Maine a victory and William and Mary a no contest. The decision reflects an effort to avoid penalizing either school, but also special sympathy towards Maine’s efforts to play the game. The resolution was met with guarded enthusiasm in Orono: Nero said the A-10 decision was “a very fair resolution” and referred to the “difficult context in which William and Mary officials have had to cancel the game.” Curiously, following the A-10 announcement, the Maine athletic department took down a web posting of more unfettered and reactionary comments of Nero made immediately following the William and Mary decision to cancel the game.
William and Mary consistently defended cancellation of the game, arguing concerns of safety and problematic logistics precluded any attempt to play the game. Tribe athletic director Terry Driscoll said, “The Athletics Department’s priority before, during and in the aftermath of storm has been to do whatever possible to maintain the safety of student-athletes and fans, while not threatening the integrity of the program. The current safety concerns on campus prevent us from hosting any event at this time.” School officials worried about the safety of people who would be visiting the campus if the game was played at home: The availability of parking, removal of debris from walk- ways, and constant supply of power were all factors that led to the cancellation of the game in Williamsburg. Moving the game, Driscoll added, didn’t seem prudent. “We just don't feel that we're able to pick up and take our team for the fourth week in a row someplace and provide the type of preparation and support we need,” he said.
President Sullivan echoed similar concerns about campus safety and the earliest possible resumption of classes. In a press release describing the school’s decision, Sullivan stated, “Regrettably, to host a football game or accommodate a hastily arranged effort to transport our football team to an off campus location is not a priority of equal urgency.”
The school’s decision seems reasonable in its own right, but concerns over safety seemed inadequate to players anxious to play at home. “We wanted to play,” said starting left guard Ryan Lumm. Head Coach Jimmye Laycock has yet to publicly comment on the game’s cancellation, and the games cancellation reportedly spread frustration throughout the ranks of Tribe players and staff.
Without a home stand, the Tribe suffered another unfortunate road loss to Delaware on Saturday October 4th. Football will now play their home-opener this Saturday against Massachusetts at one o’clock at Zable stadium.