Dukes make national headlines

My day started Saturday at 10 a.m. and it ended at 5:30 Sunday morning. There was a good reason for that as throughout the time I was kept busy by the news of the Duquesne men’s basketball team being stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

This is national news and there is no disputing that. Something such as this happens once every year or two but this incident was avoidable.

It is not the Atlantic 10’s fault. The conference scheduled the game 26 hours earlier so that Duquesne could try and get home safely as the snow started just a couple of hours before the final whistle sounded in the game against George Mason. Though A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade will talk with athletic directors, the conference will continue to monitor the weather. Scheduling favors two games a week so in theory rescheduling a game would not be out of the question though it would prefer not to.

A popular target has been Duquesne’s athletic director David Harper. I would say that is the easy way out and an unwise way to point blame. The team had a bus at VCU and keeping Duquesne with limited supplies in a Fairfax, VA area where 2-feet of snow were being projected was not any better than being unable to move on the PA Turnpike. Everyone in Pittsburgh and the coaching staff all monitored the weather and felt it was safe to proceed. With a game on Tuesday you want your team best prepared for the contest which is against LaSalle, an A-10 opponent.

No one could have been able to foresee several trucks causing a standstill. On any other day this is not a story because the Dukes are back in campus resting within 4-6 hours after leaving Fairfax. Blaming Harper is foolish because there was nothing he could do. He as well as Duquesne’s chief of police did all they could but given the situation that was just getting food to the bus. When you are trapped on the turnpike, you cannot get another bus or find another way to transport the team.

If anyone is to blame it is the PA Turnpike Commission. It was aware of how tough the roads would be to drive and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf had declared a state of energy for all of PA. It may be easiest to criticize them, but that is where most if any of the blame should be placed.

The good news for Duquesne is that all 32 people were able to maintain high spirits throughout the 30 hours and 24 minutes in the bus. The Dukes made friends with a bus next to them which contained eighth grade students from Iowa. When Duquesne did get food, it shared with the eighth graders.

This story is more than sports, its about a group of individuals used to adversity overcame more during this two day stretch.

My reporting included calls with the PA Turnpike Commission, Harper and senior forward Nick Foschia. I was also was able to obtain a statement from A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade.

Whether I was covering the Duquesne women’s basketball game or eating my birthday dinner, I was quick and consistent when it came to updates.

When I finally heard the Dukes would make it back on campus Saturday night, I knew what to do and never hesitated. It could have been 30 degrees below zero and I still would have been waiting at the A.J. Palumbo Center for the team to return.

It turns out I was the only reporter to do so, for a national news story. At 10:46 p.m. the team bus came into view and myself and the local TV cameramen prepared.

This is an experience the team will never forget. They will be brothers and family for life. I also will never forget the experience. Though I was not anywhere near the bus, it was my goal to give the readers the impression that I was.

The team remained together even after it got off the bus going to a restaurant close to campus to eat. A final scene of solidarity as I made my way back home.

Here are my links to my reporting on the story. Both are free and no subscription is needed to read either of these articles.

http://dkpittsburghsports.com/FREE/2016/01/23/dukes-remain-stuck-on-pa-turnpike/

http://dkpittsburghsports.com/FREE/2016/01/24/snow-stranded-dukes-came-a-long-way/

Photo credit: Ed Thompson

 

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