My usual wish for any game actually happened last weekend.
I always hope for an interesting game with at least six or seven over time periods.
Arkansas at Alabama was decided after only two but it was more than interesting to say the least. It looked like a bright day full of sunshine all the way until 15 minutes before the scheduled kickoff time of 2:34 p.m. CDT.
CBS always has its people in each tunnel with the teams to run them out at the right time for TV and just as they were ready to send the teams running out, I saw some lightning in the dark clouds that were rapidly approaching.
Then Penn Wagers, our referee, stepped out and made the announcement that the teams are being sent back to their locker rooms due to the lightning in the area.
The stadium management people had already made an announcement that the area was under a thunderstorm warning for about the next 45 minutes. Clearing the field and delaying the game, not to mention CBS and their national network schedule is not something that is done lightly.
It was in an Ole Miss at Alabama game back in the mid-90’s when a TV cameraman was struck by lightning and ended up suing everyone from the NCAA and SEC to the Referee. He (the cameraman) lived but there’s just another reason for being cautious.
There are basic guidelines in both the NCAA rulebook and the SEC Game Management manual that we all have. The concern is not for rain but for the danger of any associated lightning.
We have no control over the spectators in the stadium and that is left up to game management. As long as they let everyone know what is up they are covered.
The basic guideline is that if lightning is seen and then the thunder is heard within 30 seconds, clear the field. If the flash to bang time is less than 30 seconds, shut it down.
Then the procedure is to wait at least 30 minutes after the last seen lightning before allowing the game to continue. It is basically a conservative method and is a good rule of thumb to remember for any outdoor activity.
I was explaining to the producers what was going on but they were sending Arkansas out anyway. Then as we stopped the team on the field and sent them back, CBS understood we were serious.
I explained the previous drill to them and then told them I was going to stay with the referee and game management people and would let them know what was going on as soon as possible.
Then all that could be heard on the headsets was the producers telling Vern and Todd to fill with anything on delays while they went back to New York for some updates.
I took sideline reporter Jill Arrington, their sideline producer and cameraman with me to the Alabama tunnel where the referee was at that time so they could talk to him. Penn had a lot on him at that point but I did remind him to smile pretty for television.
The stadium management people have representatives in the press box from the National Weather Service for just such a situation and they were talking to the people watching the area radar. We watched the skies for lightning and when a nearby bolt was seen, the time was noted.
Finally the last lightning was seen, the NWS people said it was all moving out with nothing behind it but clear skies.
Then it was time to start notifying both coaches, the rest of the officials and CBS of when the teams were to come back out. Typically, both are given 15 minutes to warm up after such an occurrence but both coaches agreed to shorten that to 12 (CBS had nothing to do with that decision, by the way).
We walked the captains for the toss and got it all going with a total delay of one hour and four minutes. And it proceeded to be a great game.
I had told the CBS people before the game I figured at least six overtimes and as we were getting ready for both, I made sure they remembered my prediction.
I don’t ever say anything much about the game before it starts other than I hope it’s a good one but this time I did make it known I thought it was looking like a strange day at Bama and there would be overtime.
As Arkansas was getting ready to kick the game-winning field goal in the second overtime, the sideline producer and Jill both laughed and told me I was right.
What more could I say?……See you next week.