By Brendan Stiles
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A basketball game was supposed to take place Tuesday evening inside Assembly Hall. A piece of metal debris foiled those plans.
At around 2:30 p.m. ET, that debris — which was 8 feet x 1 foot and weighed 50 lbs. — fell from the ceiling and did damage to seats inside the arena’s lower bowl.
While both the 15th-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes and Indiana Hoosiers went through their final preparations before arriving at Assembly Hall, the decision was made by Indiana athletics director Fred Glass that the game should be postponed, citing safety as the top priority in going that direction.
“The decision was made within about an hour of the incident,” Glass said during a press conference held at Assembly Hall Tuesday evening along with Indiana head coach Tom Crean and Tom Morrison, who is Indiana’s vice president of Capital Planning and Facilities.
Glass also noted that while he has been given a preliminary idea of what led to the piece of metal falling in the first place, it’s also subject to change based on what engineers assessing the damage conclude.
As of Tuesday night, no make up date has been announced. Glass said Big Ten guidelines regulate a decision be agreed upon within 72 hours, otherwise the conference would get involved in all decision-making.
The Indiana Pacers offered to lend their arena, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, to the teams and allow them to make the game up Wednesday in Indianapolis. Glass said Iowa “was open” to staying around and playing the game there Wednesday, but he ultimately decided it wouldn’t be logistically possible.
“The feeling was on a 24-hour, 48-hour turnaround, that just didn’t make sense,” Glass said. “As the host, I think it was our responsibility to decide whether we could appropriately host a Big Ten game on that short notice and my conclusion based on advice from our event staff was we could not.”
Glass elaborated on such logistics as dealing with season-ticket holders and seating arrangements with less than 24 hours to work with being an issue.
Late Tuesday afternoon, sources confirmed to HawkeyeDrive.com the Hawkeyes would travel back Tuesday night to Iowa City upon learning the game wouldn’t be made up Wednesday. This was later confirmed in a statement released by Iowa athletics director Gary Barta. A plane flew into Bloomington from Akron, Ohio on Tuesday to pick up the players and coaches while all other traveling parties were scheduled to take a later flight coming in.
In statements released by the UI, both Barta and Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery expressed support of Glass’ decision not to play Tuesday night.
“We fully support Indiana’s decision to postpone tonight’s game as safety for the participants and fans is paramount,” McCaffery said in his statement. “We will be in constant communication with Indiana and the Big Ten in finding another date.
“Upon hearing the news of the postponement, our players have handled the situation professionally, like I knew they would.”
As far as making the game up is concerned, Glass made clear his plan would be to have it at Assembly Hall should engineers examining the damage give the go-ahead to let games be played there. Indiana’s women’s basketball team will play at Assembly Hall on Wednesday against Michigan, in part because not all the seats there would’ve been filled to capacity, particularly the area where the damage occurred.
“Our expectation is we would be able to have it as a home game,” Glass said. “If unexpectedly this is different than we think it is now and we’re shut down for the year, then I think we’d look at every contingency.”
Both teams play road games on Feb. 25 and both are at home the weekend of March 1-2. If the game gets made up next week, the likely date would be Feb. 27. If it can’t be played at Assembly Hall, playing the game in either Indianapolis or Iowa City could prove challenging. The Pacers play a home game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that evening, while the Iowa women’s team plays Ohio State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
If the game can be played at Assembly Hall, another potential possibility could be March 10, the Monday after the regular season ends and before the Big Ten Tournament being held March 13-16 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Right now, both teams’ regular seasons are scheduled to conclude March 8 with Indiana playing at No. 20 Michigan and Iowa playing at home against Illinois.
For now, both the Hawkeyes and Hoosiers set their immediate sights on their upcoming games Feb. 22. Iowa plays host to No. 16 Wisconsin, while Indiana travels to Northwestern.
“The bottom line is, you just adjust and that’s what we’ve done today,” said Crean, who had his brother-in-law, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, on hand to address the team before it was to play Iowa. “Our guys were extremely ready to play, in that sense. To be where we needed to be, to have that edge and that mindset to go into the game tonight.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to do that, but that pales in comparison to what any of us would’ve felt like at 9:30, 10 o’clock tonight if something would’ve happened inside of that building.”