McLEAN, Va. – The Towson's men's basketball team faced long enough odds as 19-point underdogs at George Mason. It got no easier when a hellacious 10-hour drive over 70 miles in a snowstorm forced a postponement of Wednesday night's matchup.
The Tigers were stuck in traffic just a few miles from Mason's home court in Fairfax when the 7 p.m. scheduled tipoff came and went. The game was postponed to 9 p.m. but Towson's team bus made no progress, moving about 10 yards over the course of an hour. The game was postponed again until Thursday, when George Mason defeated Towson, 84-58.
The players finally arrived in nearby Manassas after 1 a.m., after scrambling to find 17 available hotel rooms that were charged to the credit card of Assistant Coach Jim Meil.
Two freshmen recruited from Florida marveled at the scene, never having seen a snowstorm cripple an entire region.
"I couldn't believe it. People were getting out of their cars (in the middle of the Capital Beltway) and stopping to clear the snow off their windows," said guard Dre Conner, a native of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.
Director of athletic communications Pete Schlehr said the team checked weather forecasts carefully and believed that 3 p.m. would be a reasonable time to make the 70-mile drive from Towson to Fairfax. But the storm hit with a ferocity that made roads impassable almost as soon as the storm began, and the federal government sent workers home two hours early, giving the rush hour an unusually early start.
"I've never seen gridlock like this," Schlehr said.
The Colonial Athletic Association, however, thought Towson should have taken a more proactive approach to its travel plans. The league issued a reprimand Thursday to the Tigers for missing tipoff.
"While everyone understands travel complications with winter storms, there is no evidence that any consideration was made by Towson to adjust their normal travel plans to account for the anticipated problems," CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said in a statement.
After the CAA issued its reprimand, Towson issued a statement saying, "Wednesday was challenging for everyone. We apologize to the George Mason community for any inconvenience. Moving forward we will review our internal policies with regard to travel and communications with the league office and our fellow CAA members so that issues like this don't occur again."
The Towson players handled the delay well, Schlehr said.
"They've got their computer notebook. They were playing cards. They weren't bothered by any of it," he said.
The only real casualty was a coat belonging to head coach Pat Kennedy, which he laid under a bus tire hoping it would help gain traction to clear a slippery highway ramp. The coat shredded and the bus remained stuck.