BLACKSBURG, Va. (August 27, AP) – Sunday night’s Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game was postponed by game and school officials after severe thunderstorms and lightning rolled into the area just as the teams were lined up for the opening kickoff.
After waiting about an hour as thunder rumbled in, lightning bolts lit up the sky and heavy rain pelted Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver announced the postponement at 9:08 p.m.
“There is another round of storms more severe than the first one, so the game is postponed,” Weaver said. “We will talk about the possibility of rescheduling, of maybe playing the first weekend in December.”
With the field soaked and puddles forming near the sidelines, Weaver said he did not want to risk injuries. Vick, the Hokies’ sensational quarterback who led the team to the national title game in 1999, will now make his much anticipated sophomore debut Saturday against Akron.
Georgia Tech athletic director David Braine, Weaver, referee Dan Blum and game organizers met during the storm and decided against trying to play the game Sunday or Monday.
“Both teams play next Saturday and that field is not going to be playable,” Weaver said.
While Weaver hopes to eventually play the game, Braine isn’t so sure, especially about the December date. The Yellow Jackets play rival Georgia on Nov. 25.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea. Our reasons for playing a preseason game were because we had an inexperienced quarterback,” Braine said. “He will have 11 games by then.”
Braine said teams won’t get the $600,000 they were promised if the game isn’t played, but added: “We didn’t play this game for money anyway.”
Weaver said the schools would have to petition the NCAA to play on a Friday because that is the night high schools play their games.
The decision whether or not to play could have national title implications. The Hokies were ranked No. 11 in the AP preseason poll, while the Yellow Jackets return 18 starters from last year’s 8-4 squad. George Godsey, who steps in for the departed Joe Hamilton at quarterback, had his debut as the new starter delayed a week. The Yellow Jackets play Central Florida on Saturday.
When the storm hit Sunday night, players, officials and photographers dashed off the field and headed for shelter. The Yellow Jackets stood under a tent and makeshift garage, the Hokies in a small tunnel. Both teams eventually ran across the field to the tunnel leading to the locker rooms.
By 9 p.m., and with the rain intensifying, most of the crowd of 55,000 had taken shelter.
Dave Smith, Virginia Tech’s sports information director, has been with the school for 26 years and said he couldn’t recall a home game being delayed by lightning or postponed.
The last I-A game postponed was the UCLA-Miami game.
The last I-A game delayed by lightning was BYU at New Mexico on Oct. 17, 1999. The game was delayed at the start of the second half for 43 minutes.
“I was really looking forward to playing this game,” Georgia Tech coach George O’Leary said. “We had been called off the field for lightning before, but we had always been called back.”