Snow, sleet, storms rarely stop ACC
Posted January 29
For a sports league rooted in the South, it takes a lot of snow to stop ACC basketball games.
There was another reminder of that fact Wednesday, when North Carolina State and Georgia Tech made early-morning decisions to stay the course in hosting scheduled night games – UNC will play at Tech (7 p.m. ESPN2) and Florida State at NCSU (9 p.m., WRAL).
The snow that fell Tuesday into Wednesday crippled transportation across metropolitan Atlanta to the point that Carolina’s players and coaches didn’t reach their hotel until almost 2 a.m. Wednesday. Some in the troupe hiked the final few blocks.
The Seminoles arrived in Raleigh with less difficulty, but driving conditions in the Triangle were such that almost all of the regional school systems called off classes, including those at State.
The ACC’s policy on game cancellations and postponements dictates that such actions can be taken only if the well-being of players and game officials is at risk.
That rarely happens.
One exception was a season-opening 2000 football game between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Afternoon thunderstorms were so severe that Lane Stadium was evacuated. No one was seriously harmed, but ESPN analyst Lee Corso’s car was struck by lightning and set on fire.
Leap Day a legend in ACC history
The current ACC policy wasn’t in place – as least not in written form – when the 1980 conference tournament in Greensboro was blindsided by one of the heaviest March snowstorms in North Carolina history.
“Leap Day Blizzard” was the nickname given to the event. Snow was falling during the Friday night (Feb. 29) semifinals when top-seeded Maryland won 91-85 over Clemson and 6th-seeded Duke stunned 2nd-seed Carolina 75-61.
By tipoff of the championship game the following afternoon, roads were virtually impassable. Travel conditions were so treacherous that the ACC announced early that morning that no fans would be turned away if they made it to the coliseum, which seated roughly 16,000 at the time.
Somehow, almost 7,000 fans got there. Many of those fans – like most of the sports writers – walked from what was then the Holiday Inn Four Seasons (now Sheraton Four Seasons) about two miles away.
Duke, which had a history of success in foul weather, stopped Maryland for the title, 73-72, on Vince Taylor’s game-clinching shot with about 30 seconds left.
Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was so hot after the game that he could have melted a glacier with his stare. A late-game rebound jockeying episode between the Terps’ Albert King and Duke’s Kenny Dennard ended with King knocked off his feet. There was no foul call.
Lefty wouldn’t win an ACC tourney title until four years later in the same building (74-62 over Duke) and capped that afternoon by saying he might have the championship trophy bolted to the hood of his car and just spend the summer cruising around North Carolina.
As the 4th-seed, Duke had won the 1960 conference tournament in Raleigh (Reynolds Coliseum) during a weekend that featured a 12-inch snowfall in Wake, Durham and Orange counties.
Power outage marked 1993 event in Charlotte
The Blue Devils were not as fortunate in the snow at the 1993 tournament in Charlotte.
High winds, sleet, freezing rain and about three inches of snow combined to create a miserable weekend for fans who eventually saw 6th-seeded Georgia Tech edge top-seeded Carolina 77-75 in the finals. The Jackets had eliminated Duke 69-66 in the quarterfinals.
The worst of the weekend weather hit during Saturday’s semifinal game between the Tar Heels and Virginia. The Heels won the game, 74-56, but only after a power outage left the coliseum dark, bleak and chilly for almost an hour.
“We had a power outage, too,” Virginia coach Jeff Jones said after the game.
Carolina was leading by only four points before the interruption.
The following day, James Forrest scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Yellow Jackets to their third league title.