ACC basketball games to go on despite conflict

January 17, 1991|By Milton Kentand Ken Rosenthal | Milton Kentand Ken Rosenthal,Evening Sun Staff

The Atlantic Coast Conference today decided that it will not cancel any portion of its basketball schedule in deference to events in the Persian Gulf.

Tom Mickle, an ACC spokesman, said a conference call of athletic directors from the eight member schools today yielded a unanimous feeling that the league should play its games.

"We plan to go on with the remainder of the schedule," said Mickle.

He said the league office would act as a "clearing house" on protocol and that the decision to play might be reassessed if the national mood changes or if opinions on the individual campuses were against playing.

Mickle said a decision on when to reschedule a postponed game between North Carolina and North Carolina State would be made later today, with a date sometime in February the likely choice.

Officials in Chapel Hill elected to cancel a scheduled 9 p.m. televised game between the teams at the Dean E. Smith Center last night.

"This is just a moment of recognition that our lives are changing," said Paul Hardin, chancellor of the University of North Carolina. "This is not a moment to play basketball."

Said John Swofford, North Carolina's athletic director: "I think people will certainly understand that the importance of the basketball game pales considerably in comparison to what's on the minds of a lot of Americans and a lot of others in the world that we live in tonight."

In College Park, Maryland and Virginia played at the decision of Maryland athletic director Andy Geiger. Virginia won, 76-62.

"The building was occupied," Geiger said. "Everything was in place. So, we went ahead and played."

Geiger suggested last night that while "it might seem frivolous" to continue to play during the conflict, it might be good for players and fans to maintain life as usual, as much as that is possible.

"Most of us will keep doing what we've been doing," Geiger said. "Persevering in life is an important concept. That would be my recommendation."

The Terps' men's basketball team is scheduled to play South Florida Saturday night in Tampa, while the women's team is scheduled to play at home against North Carolina Saturday afternoon.

The attack was launched at 7 p.m. Just prior to the 7:30 p.m. game, Maryland public address announcer Nick Kovalikides read a statement informing the crowd of 11,754 of the attack.

Maryland players heard reports of the attack by radio in their locker room. Because of the breaking news reports, the game wasn't broadcast.

Virginia players, however, were not told of the attack until after the game.

"The war started? Really?" said Bryant Stith, a junior forward at Virginia, after the Cavaliers' victory.

"I thought it [the announcement] was just for a tribute to the troops," said senior guard John Crotty. "I didn't know any action was taken."

For Stith, the reality of war brought thoughts of a close friend, Hayward Fields, who is serving in the Army in Saudi Arabia. Fields went to high school with Stith in Emporia, Va.

Stith said he had been keeping in touch with Fields. He wrote him a letter just last week, in addition to sending him team posters and a yearbook to keep his morale high.

"We're trying to help him take his mind off what's going on in the Middle East," said Stith.

Last night's attack brought everything into a sharper, poignant focus as Stith thought of his friend and so many others serving in the Gulf.

"It's really sad and heartbreaking," Stith said. "The future is uncertain. We're all blessed to have people to go over there and fight for our country. I just wish them the best of luck."

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