Another week, another blowout for third-ranked UCLA.
This one, though, won’t carry any weight with the nation’s pollsters--and could come back to haunt the Bruins.
Still, Coach Bob Toledo wasn’t about to second-guess Thursday’s decision--reached by administrators from both schools--to cancel Saturday’s nationally televised game at Miami because of the threat of Hurricane Georges.
“Deep down inside, I’m actually kind of glad that we’re not going,” said Toledo, who broke the news to his players as they prepared to board a bus to LAX. “I’m responsible for those young men and to their families, and I would feel terrible if something happened. You’ve got to keep it in perspective: This is a game.”
Meanwhile, USC arrived early Thursday evening in Tallahassee, Fla., where the Trojans are scheduled to play Florida State on Saturday. Tallahassee is about 400 miles northwest of Miami and about 25 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico.
In South Florida, Thursday night’s baseball game between the Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies was postponed and rescheduled as part of a doubleheader Saturday. Today’s program at Calder Race Course was canceled, and many high school events were postponed.
The Miami Dolphins have a bye this week so Coach Jimmy Johnson canceled today’s practice, and many players made plans to spend the weekend out of town.
Still on as of Thursday was the Miami Fusion’s final regular-season Major League Soccer game Sunday against Tampa Bay, as well as the NHL Florida Panthers’ debut in their new arena, an exhibition game Sunday against the Boston Bruins.
Georges was forecast to hit the Florida Keys today, with the effects of the storm expected to felt in Miami and beyond.
Although UCLA and Miami announced that their game had been canceled, Toledo said it might still be played--either on Dec. 5, the next open date for both teams--that’s two weeks after UCLA’s season-ending game against USC at the Rose Bowl--or Nov. 28, when Miami is scheduled to play at Syracuse. The Miami-Syracuse game would have to be moved to accommodate UCLA.
Miami Athletic Director Paul Dee said that he and his UCLA counterpart, Peter Dalis, would discuss rescheduling the game early next week, continuing talks started this week. But both schools, Dee said, have major basketball games scheduled on Dec. 5--UCLA against Oklahoma State in the Wooden Classic at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim and Miami at Kentucky.
“I think for the most part, it’s pretty much a past issue,” Dee said. “We consider the game canceled.”
Dee said the loss of television revenue and gate receipts--the game was expected to draw a crowd of about 42,000 to the Orange Bowl--could cost the Hurricanes as much as $1 million.
UCLA’s share of the gate and TV revenue was expected to be about $700,000.
The cancellation might also be costly to UCLA’s bid for the national championship or a Rose Bowl berth--and could stall Cade McNown’s Heisman Trophy bid.
“That’s why the decision [about rescheduling] hasn’t been made yet,” Toledo said. “If we are in a position to be a national championship contender, this game could have implications. . . .
“We have legitimate concerns about the bowl championship series and for the Rose Bowl tiebreaker. We could be in a tie [for the Pacific 10 Conference title] and not go to the Rose Bowl because of [not playing] this game.”
Even if the game is rescheduled for Dec. 5, it might be too late for McNown to make one last push for the Heisman Trophy.
Last year, 56% of the ballots had been received by the Downtown Athletic Club before Dec. 1, well before the deadline. The deadline this year is Dec. 11, with the winner to be announced Dec. 12.
All things considered, though, Toledo said his players weren’t too upset about the cancellation.
“They’ve had one eye on the Weather Channel, just like the rest of us, and when we practiced this morning there was a look in their eyes like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ ” Toledo said. “So, I was concerned. . . .
“Then when word came down from above that we weren’t going to make the trip I think there was a little sigh of relief.”
The schools’ action was not unprecedented. In September 1988, a Texas A&M-Alabama; game was postponed for 2 1/2 months after Alabama said it would not come to Texas because of travel problems caused by Hurricane Gilbert. And in September 1992, a Miami-New England NFL game was postponed for six weeks because of continuing cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.
Toledo said he’d never been involved in a game that was scrapped--and neither UCLA nor Miami had ever canceled a game--but the coach was once caught in a hurricane while vacationing in Mexico.
After huddling in the bathroom of their hotel room for several hours, Toledo and his wife, Elaine, emerged to witness the destruction: palm trees floating in the bay, boats tipped over on the beach, a foot of mud in the swimming pool.
“It was like a war zone,” Toledo said. “It’s something I didn’t want to go through again. And my wife was not going to make this trip. She was the only smart one.”
In Miami, of course, hurricanes are nothing new.
In fact, on the day the university was scheduled to open in 1926, Dee said, a hurricane hit and the campus had to be shut down--as it was again Wednesday.
“So the school was actually closed down before it opened,” Dee said. “Hence, our nickname.”
* TROJANS TO FIGHT ON: USC has arrived in Florida and is expected to play Florida State despite the hurricane threat. C12
* WILDCATS PERFECT: Keith Smith ran for two touchdowns and passed for one as Arizona defeated San Diego State, 35-16. C12
* COLLEGE FOOTBALL PRIMER: C12