Buffalo's canceled football game was long overdue

Buffalo's football game is canceled Ð a week too late

The Spectrum

Can we take a minute to step back and look at the big picture?

Yes, the Buffalo football team’s matchup against Kent State was canceled. Every player and coach made it to Buffalo, ready to play. But Kent State’s equipment truck has been stuck on Route 5 since Tuesday.

And instead of reading on Twitter about people hoping the truck driver is safe, social media has declared him incompetent and needing to be reprimanded.

This poor driver made a mistake. He took the wrong route to Buffalo. And he’s certainly paying the price – he is stranded after all.

He isn’t the devil. He didn’t intentional sabotage Buffalo’s chances of a .500 season. Everybody remember: It’s only a football game.

Folks in Amherst, New York and the South Campus district (like myself) are lucky. We didn’t get hit with the worst parts of this storm – or seemingly any part of the storm in comparison. I don’t even think I have 12 inches of snow at my home.

But some parts of the greater Buffalo area are experiencing more than 6 feet of snow. This is taller than some current Bulls and former Buffalo star Branden Oliver. The great Khalil Mack would be buried in certain parts of the city right now.

Highways are closed, driving bands are in effect, roofs are collapsing and 10 people are dead. Parts of Western New York resemble scenes from the movie The Day After Tomorrow.

But no, let’s play a football game. The Sabres canceled their scheduled Friday night game against the Rangers more than 24 hours before it was set to start. The Bills finally came to their senses – or were forced – and moved this weekend’s game against the Jets to Detroit. Even UB canceled its Friday basketball game and that was because the other team couldn’t make it here.

UB realized its mistake of holding school Wednesday. The university canceled Thursday and Friday. Buffalo, Kent State, the MAC, everybody involved made a mistake by telling Kent State to travel to Buffalo. And this mistake should have been admitted long before Thursday at 9:30 p.m.

Kent State players and coaches never should have been in Buffalo. This is one of the worst storms in Buffalo history – a history filled with white and blizzards. Everybody knew at the start of the week it would be a bad storm. A very bad storm. But still, Kent State trekked 10 hours (when it should have been three) on a bus to Buffalo Tuesday morning for a football game.

After seeing the Niagara women’s basketball team stranded on the I-90 for more than 24 hours, still, the MAC decided to try to play this game – a game between a 4-6 Buffalo team and a 1-9 Kent State squad. Teams that weren’t bowl eligible. (Yes, if Buffalo finished 6-6, it would have had a tiny, miniscule, possibility of playing in a bowl game. But with no wins against talented teams and two wins against FCS schools, how realistic was this?)

Although only one FCS win counts toward the necessary six wins to be bowl eligible, in the event there are not enough bowl eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots, 6-6 teams with two FCS wins are selected for bowl games before teams with a 6-7 record or worse. There is a possibility of this being the case this season.

The Bulls had played during the 2006 October storm. But is that some type of justification for playing again during this storm? We are supposed to learn from our mistakes. The decision to play that game was a mistake. One that the university and the MAC did all it could to repeat.

Is it fair to the players that the game was canceled? No. At the same time, is it fair to the players the restraints that the NCAA puts on them – the inability to make money off their name, the censorship being able to say their favorite restaurant in an interview or even showing brand names in pictures. The MAC, as a conference in the NCAA, tells its student-athletes every day what they can’t do. On Monday, officials should have gotten on the phone and told both Buffalo and Kent State there wouldn’t be a football game.

Maybe then the players could have used these two days off as any other college student would: catching up on homework, binging on Netflix.

That would have been the responsible thing for the MAC to do.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it will not be feasible to play the football game between Kent State and Buffalo on Friday," said MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher Thursday evening. “The game has been cancelled and will not be rescheduled. The safety of the student-athletes and fans is paramount. We want to be respectful of the efforts of the emergency service personnel in the Buffalo area who are working to assist those in need.”

Read over the second part of that quote again.

If you told me this before Thursday night, I would have believed you.

Where were these concerns Monday? Or even Wednesday evening? The game wasn’t canceled Wednesday. It was “postponed” meaning the MAC had every intention of playing the game.

Or was the conference too concerned about #MACTION. Was it too concerned about giving away its chance to play on ESPNU? Was it too concerned of canceling a game played in a spectacle of snow and wind?

Kent State players and coaches spent multiple nights in Buffalo for no reason. The poor bus driver is still stranded and receiving copious amounts of Twitter hate – all from people in their heated houses with food and drinks at their disposal.

Everybody messed up in this instance. UB messed up for even allowing this game to possibly happen, even after canceling “all classes and activities” Friday. Buffalo’s Athletic Department messed up for trying to force this game. Kent State’s Athletic Department messed up for allowing its players to travel through an area that was in the midst of one of its worst 48-hour weather patterns in history. And, of course, the MAC messed up for allowing this scenario to continue into Thursday evening.

On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “impractical” for the Bills to play Sunday because of the driving ban. Yet, the Buffalo Bulls had fully intended on playing Friday in Amherst. If even one person was injured or stranded traveling to this game, would it have been worth it?

"Mad is an understatement at this point," junior quarterback Joe Licata tweeted at 10:23 p.m. Thursday. And this is exactly how he should be feeling. Use this anger for next season. Don’t get into a situation where Mother Nature can keep you from being in a bowl game.

This whole situation was easily avoidable. Mother Nature does as she wants. In the end, let’s be glad everybody is safe and accounted for.

Everybody except the Kent State bus driver. But after all, who cares about him, right?

email: owen.obrien@ubspectrum.com

This post has been updated to clarify the specific rules about NCAA bowl games.