The biggest force in Southland Conference basketball, both men and women, isn't the division leader or the team on the hottest winning streak. As great of a season Bearkats like Britni Martin and Gilberto Clavell are having, it's mother nature who is making headlines.
Last Saturday, UT-Arlington and Central Arkansas postponed and rescheduled games due to the icy weather restrictions. The Bearkats were set to face Southeastern Louisiana on the same day at 3pm, traveling under the same sort of conditions.
Teams typically take buses on the afternoon or evening before game day, which means under normal circumstances - and under the premise in which the Bearkats prepared - the ladies would have left on Friday evening. But as SHSU athletic director Bobby Williams explains, safety is the number one concern in these types of situations. The bus wasn't released on Friday - the same day the university cancelled classes - because of safety reasons.
Still, another priority is making sure games are played as close to as scheduled as possible, in order to avoid awkward gamesmanship and put teams at competitive disadvantages.
This is the dilemma our women's basketball team was faced with. Williams and the opposing A.D. had to plan for when the ladies could get there, with reasonable time to spare before tip-off.
To everyone's credit, this was handled well by entities that compete against each other. The first provision was that if SHSU could leave Huntsville at 8 a.m., gametime would be pushed back to 4 p.m.
But as Williams says, "It was a moving target. It all depended on when our team could get there. We were using that hour and a half, two-hour window for once they got there, give them time to get ready."
Of course no one wants to hop off a seven-hour bus ride and practically step on the court to a team that's in its comfort zone. Yet, rarely do players know how complicated it gets for the talking heads (such as athletic directors and commisioners).
Somehow, the SHSU players got the impression that they were being slighted. This, however, was far from the truth. They didn't leave on Friday because it would have been nearly impossible to do that safely. Tip-off was pushed back to 7:30, after much discussion, with the intention of giving them some sort fairness in a delicate situation.
Whatever got the Kats fired up worked, evidently. Against Southeastern Louisiana, they ended a three-game losing streak and recorded their fifth double digit conference victory of the season. The Kats are back in the driver's seat, after being held from competition all of four hours.
And here we are just a few days later seeing the same types of things happen around the conference, even as SHSU was set to host UTA on Wednesday. The Mavs couldn't get out of Arlington because of the weather, of course. The game had to be moved to Thursday afternoon with a hopeful start time of 4 p.m. But as we have already seen, only time will tell.
So at least the women's basketball team knows they aren't the only ones going through changes. And more importantly, they proved to themselves last Saturday that they could respond to change if necessary.
-- Brandon Scott