Nebraska Football: Pelini Makes Right Call by Canceling Spring Game

Patrick RungeCorrespondent IApril 15, 2012

Photo by Patrick Runge
Photo by Patrick Runge

"We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice." - Allen Iverson

On Saturday, Bo Pelini overruled the positions of Nebraska’s athletic department and outright cancelled the Spring Game. Lightning and strong thunderstorms in and around Lincoln flooded the stairways and passages of Memorial Stadium, making it dangerous for fans to get to their seats. And a second line of strong thunderstorms on the way meant there was no way to wait the storm out.

So the correct decision was made, and Saturday’s game was cancelled.

Initially, athletic director Tom Osborne and other members of the NU administration considered postponing the game until Sunday, but Pelini reviewed that option with his players and pulled the plug on the Spring Game altogether.

“I had a show of hands of people who had a problem with tomorrow,” Pelini said in the Omaha World-Herald, “and you’re talking group projects, academic things – you’ve got an (academic) banquet tomorrow night – logistical issues with their family.”

So for the first time since 1949, Nebraska will not have a Spring Game. That decision left some fans more than a little upset on Saturday. That reaction is understandable, I suppose. For many people, the Spring Game is their only opportunity to see football of any kind at Memorial Stadium. Many people came from around the state — or around the country — for a chance to get a glimpse at Nebraska’s future. And eat a Runza and a Fairbury hot dog, of course.

Photo by Patrick Runge
Photo by Patrick Runge

It didn’t help that the administration decided not to give refunds on the tickets. I saw a group of people at the athletic ticket window after the cancellation, pounding on the window in an attempt to get questions answered. Throughout the stadium, the grumbles of a disappointed fanbase reverberated, although they were quieted somewhat by free food and players made available for autographs.

But, ultimately, Pelini made the right call. Saturday was simply an unsafe environment for a game, much less an overblown practice. The oldest parts of Memorial Stadium were built in 1923, and the steep stairs and narrow walkways are less than inviting under the best of conditions. With water gushing through the concourses, it would have been a matter of time before someone fell and hurt themselves.

Even if NU could have waited out the storm, having the Spring Game on Saturday still would have been a bad call. The field still would have been drenched, and as Pelini noted, his squad is dangerously thin in a number of areas already. While fans were certainly disappointed to miss out on an afternoon of Husker football, the Children of the Corn would have been outraged if Rex Burkhead blew out a knee on a wet surface and was lost for the season.

Rescheduling the game would have been problematic, as well. Playing the game on Sunday would have asked the fans who traveled long distances  —the ones that were most put out by the cancellation — to either absorb the cost of a hotel room for the night or to travel long distances home and back again. Putting the game on the following weekend would have put similar strains on the fanbase, not to mention the team and athletic administration.

Nebraska’s loss of a practice isn’t a good thing, but ultimately it won’t be the deciding factor about wins or losses in 2012. I’ve certainly been critical of Pelini in the past, but in this case, Pelini acted decisively and in the best interest of his team and the fans. Well done, coach.

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