|Commentary: Blue Devils Show Complete Lack Of Class On Sunday||Tweet|
|by Dan Scott -- Correspondent - Monday, April 21, 2008 8:36 AM||
DURHAM, N.C. - If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it.
Seriously. If you had told me that an ACC school - any school for that matter - could intentionally stoop as low as Duke University did Sunday afternoon in Durham, I'd have shaken my head.
No school, or its officials, would be so bold as to commit such a brazen act of larceny in broad daylight. No school, or its officials, would have the audacity to insult not only its opponent, but also its conference and the NCAA.
No school, or its officials, would put on such a poor display of sportsmanship. No school, or its officials, could show such a complete lack of respect for the game of baseball.
No, it couldn't happen. Not so publicly. Not in front of almost 1,000 people - including at least two members of the media.
But, sadly, it did happen. Sunday at Duke.
And the Blue Devil hierarchy made almost no attempt to hide their actions.
Sunday in Durham, the Duke baseball team threw all pretense of class and sportsmanship out the window, using the weather and a loose interpretation of the rules to weasel its way into a tie with Jack Leggett's Tigers.
In case you don't know the details, a brief synopsis:
Clemson is trailing Duke 6-2 entering the ninth inning, but rallies to tie the game on a two-out, three-run home run by Ben Paulsen. The game moves to extra innings.
In the top of the 11th, Kyle Parker blasts a two-run home run off the scoreboard in right to put the Tigers ahead, 8-6.
As Parker crossed the plate and headed to the dugout, a Duke official walked onto the field behind home plate and consulted with umpire Paul Guille, who then immediately stopped play. Lightning was spotted in the area, we were told. The game would go into a mandatory 30-minute delay.
The stoppage came at 3:41 p.m. Remember that. It will be important. Play could not resume until 4:11 p.m.
On the surface, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. That would quickly change.
As time moved on, it rapidly became evident something wasn't right. No lightning was physically seen around the ballpark. And while a thunderstorm system was moving in, at the time the game was stopped the system was still miles west of the area.
In fact, the first raindrops at Jack Coombs Field didn't occur until a short time after the 4:11 p.m. allowed resumption time.
During that entire period there was no lightning a the stadium. None. Not until the rain began to fall.
Yet play was stopped because of the lightning warning.
Understand, this wasn't sophisticated system such as the one installed at Clemson, which sounds a siren if lightning is detected within five miles of campus.
Instead, the Duke official who stopped the game received a text message from a weather service in Wichita, Kansas, telling him lightning had been spotted just west of Chapel Hill - which would have put it a minimum of 10 miles away, probably further.
Oh. Here's the best part.
The text message was received, according to officials, at 3:37 p.m. A full four minutes before the game was stopped.
Before Parker hit the home run.
Yet it took four minutes for the Duke official to walk out of the baseball building directly behind the third base dugout and relay the message to Guille.
His timing couldn't have been better if he had planned it that way.
Yet as ridiculous as that whole scenario was, it was about to get even more bizarre.
As the rain began to fall, the Duke people did nothing. They made no effort to put the tarp on the infield so the playing surface would be protected.
Instead, Blue Devils' coach Sean McNally instructed his players to do nothing. They sat in the dugout and watched.
When confronted by Jack Leggett as to why the tarp wasn't being pulled, McNally's response was that - under the rules - if lightning were in the area he wasn't required to use his players to put the tarp down. And since his grounds crew - all three of them - had already gone, he wasn't going to put his players in harm's way.
Now, understand that the safety of players is the most important aspect of any event. No one will argue that.
But the original warning was issued with lightning at least 10 miles away. And the Duke officials obviously had weather radar and knew the system was coming because at one point - after the delay but before the rain - they told both clubs that everything would be shut down until 5:30 p.m., which is when the system was expected to pass.
So with the knowledge that the system was coming, but with no lightning in the immediate area, there was plenty of time to put the tarp down without endangering anyone.
Yet McNally wouldn't.
Look at the standings. Had Duke lost that game it would have fallen 1 1/2 games behind Clemson in the race for one of the final spots in the ACC tournament. Only eight teams make it to Jacksonville, and the Blue Devils are threatening to sneak into the field for the first time under this new system.
As it stands now, with Sunday being officially ruled a tie, Clemson and Wake Forest occupy the final two spots with identical 7-13 records. The Demon Deacons would get the No. 7 seed by virtue of their series win over Clemson earlier this year.
Duke is 6-13, a half-game back of Clemson for the final spot.
And while the Tigers close out their ACC season with series against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Florida State, the Blue Devils have three-game sets with Maryland, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech.
It's a significantly easier road than the one Clemson faces, and McNally apparently had no issues flaunting that fact.
What he, and Duke University did, technically was within the framework of the rules.
In reality they not only violated the spirit and intent of the rule, but in doing so exhibited the single greatest lack of sportsmanship I've ever seen.
McNally took Duke's lack of a grounds crew, lack of baseball infrastructure and lack of support for his program and turned it into a way to gain an unfair advantage in an ACC series. It was stunning to watch. It was disgusting to digest.
It was classless to pull.
Can you imagine a similar scenario happening at Clemson? Can you see Jack Leggett pulling the same stunt on Florida State to try and gain an advantage in the standings?
No, you can't. Because Leggett and the Clemson baseball program are first class.
Jack Leggett will fight you tooth and nail on the field. But if you're good enough to beat him, while he won't like it, he's man enough to tip his cap to you for doing it.
If you pull shenanigans like McNally and Duke did, you're going to hear about it. Which McNally did. Face to face, man to man.
One coach defending his team. Defending baseball.
Another hiding behind a loophole in the rulebook and questionable timing.
Sean McNally, from all appearances, is doing a good job trying to rebuild a program that Duke University has ignored for a long time. But if this is the way he's going to operate while doing so, the Blue Devils are better off with someone else at the helm.
Better to lose with dignity than tie with a complete lack of class.
Someone, probably McNally, should lose their job over this travesty. But he won't. Duke officials won't see anything wrong with what transpired Sunday.
Neither, likely, will the ACC.
Which is just as heinous a crime.
|Dan Scott can be reached at email@example.com||
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