CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- An alert security guard and some unseasonably warm weather helped avert potential disaster and possible postponement of yesterday's Virginia-Georgia Tech football game, after vandals burned an 18-foot-by-32-foot patch of AstroTurf at Scott Stadium.
According to University of Virginia athletic director Jim Copeland, a security guard walking around the rim of the stadium notice a fire burning at midfield around 3:30 a.m. The security guard alerted police, then helped extinguish the fire before university officials arrived.
"He kept it from being worse than it is," said Copeland. "I didn't think when I first saw it that we could play. It was that bad. It was like a huge hole."
Damage from the blaze was estimated at $60,000. There were no suspects.
Copeland and associate athletic director Jim West spent the rest of the morning at the stadium while a six-man crew feverishly repatched the burned section of the field. Copeland said that an old piece of turf that had been replaced two years ago was put down.
The mild temperatures helped the glue adhere. If the weather had been colder, or if it had been raining, the field might not have been able to be repaired so quickly and the game might have been postponed.
Neither Copeland nor Georgia Tech athletic director Homer Rice knew of any contingency plans. Rice, Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner Gene Corrigan and coaches George Welsh of Virginia and Bobby Ross of Georgia Tech were called at 6 a.m. The field was inspected at around 9:30 a.m.
"We would have played the game even if we had to play it on asphalt," said Rice.
Copeland said that field was in pretty good shape, considering what had happened. "If you keep your eyes closed and walk across it, you don't notice the difference," he said. "I played on worse than that in the Astrodome."
According to a spokesman for CBS, which televised the game, the network had no backup game scheduled in case the top-ranked Cavaliers and No. 16 Yellow Jackets didn't play.
* Yesterday's losses by No. 1 Virginia and No. 3 Nebraska opened the door for several teams to stake a claim at a chance for the national championship.
Among those that might have been benefited the most were No. 4 Auburn (6-0-1), which played at Florida; No. 6 Houston (8-0) and No. 7 Washington (8-1).
* The goal posts here were greased in case there was a repeat of the celebration after Virginia's victory earlier this season over Clemson. It didn't happen.
But it did at Georgia Tech, where thousands of students poured onto Grant Field and tore down the goal posts there.