CHARLESTON, S.C. – For the Ohio State men’s basketball team, the Carrier Classic was over before it started – literally.
A wet playing surface forced the cancelation of OSU and Marquette’s season-opening game in the Carrier Classic on the flight deck of the USS Yorktown. The game was ruled a no contest and will not be rescheduled. Game officials, along with the OSU and Marquette athletic directors and coaches, agreed on the decision to cancel the game after delaying the scheduled 7 p.m. tip more than an hour.
“It was player safety,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith Smith said of the decision. “The condensation on the floor would not go away so we had to keep mopping it every two or three minutes.”
Marquette athletic director Larry Williams agreed.
“We decided that, based on our number No. 1 priority – student-athlete safety – the conditions just aren’t conducive to playing a contest,” Williams said. “We’d be putting our kids at undue risk of injury and we just don’t want to do that.”
Right before the referee was about to throw up the opening tip, he called for a spot on the court to be dried off. The problem was not just confined to one area though, and within minutes referees, Navy men and even some players were on hands and knees trying to sop up moisture.
The players regrouped to for the opening tip off once more, but the court was still too wet.
There was no rain in the area, but the temperature dropped significantly between the end of the women’s game, which started at 4 p.m., and the start of the men’s game.
Condensation covered parts of the court and reappeared despite being wiped off.
Gary Gray, portables and special projects manager for Connor Sports Flooring, the company that provided the Carrier Classic hardwood surface, said he was satisfied with how the court was prepared for Friday’s games.
Gray oversaw the successful installation and use of the court for the 2011 Carrier Classic between North Carolina and Michigan State in San Diego, Calif. The unexpectedly cool temperature was working against him this year, Gray said.
“Through all of the practices … (the teams) were saying the floor was great – performed great,” Gray said. “It’s just that when the dew point hits and temperature drops six degrees in an hour, you’re prone to have the damage … You know that’s a risk when you do something like this, and it’s not like it’s a common (event). We did something outdoors, it worked last year.”
Connor Sports Flooring was responsible for the Carrier Classic court used for Friday’s game between Florida and Georgetown in Jacksonville. The Gators took a 27-23 lead into half against the Hoyas before that game was also called due to condensation on the playing surface.
After the cancelation was announced, fans and serviceman in attendance were invited to come down near the court to meet with players and get autographs.
“This is a great opportunity for our players to show them a little love like they’re doing out here right now,” Smith said.
Face value for general admission tickets was $500 and it does not appear as if there will be a refund: The back of the ticket stub says, “There will be no refund in the event of inclement weather.”
Zack Brandt, a 27-year old OSU alumnus, said he spent a lot of money to travel from Chicago to see the game, but maintained a positive attitude.
“The tickets are non-refundable due to inclement weather,” Brandt said. “It’s on the fine print in the back. So we got to see one game. We got to see a women’s game and see the men’s team shoot around and the money went to a good cause.”
The OSU women’s team lost to Notre Dame, 57-51.
When the game was canceled, many servicemen were disappointed, but understood the situation.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Keith Wilson, an ensign in the Navy. “You don’t want the players slipping around and hurting themselves. At least we got to watch the women’s game really, that was cool.”
OSU junior forward Deshaun Thomas said he wanted to play the game and even suggested the teams come back in the morning.
Despite the disappointment of not playing the game, Thomas said he would remember interacting with troops aboard the ship.
“This experience is just seeing the troops. You know, signing autographs, trying to make them happy, put a smile on their faces,” Thomas said. “We couldn’t put a show on for them but just being here and seeing their faces … just being around them.”
OSU scheduled to play on Sunday in Columbus at the Schottenstein Center against Albany at 2 p.m.