The Georgia Bulldogs were 20 minutes into their bus ride to Starkville, Miss., — their chartered flight out of Athens was canceled due to Tuesday’s winter storm — when Delta called to tell them they could fly them to Columbus, Miss., out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. So instead of an anticipated six-hour drive through potentially treacherous conditions, particularly coming back late Wednesday night, they changed course.
But as UGA coach Mark Fox said Tuesday, canceling Wednesday night’s game was the absolute last option. He said it is the school’s responsibility to the SEC and to the opponent to make every attempt to get it to a game, regardless of weather, though doing so with safety in mind.
“We owe it to the league to try to get there to play the game,” Fox said on a teleconference call Tuesday. “So we’re going to head out and do whatever we can to make it over there. That’s part of our responsibility as competitors. If we have to hitchhike we’ll find a way to get there.”
Classes both at UGA and at Mississippi State University were canceled Tuesday due to the winter storm that is blanketing the South. After their original flight out of Athens was canceled, the team planned to travel by bus. The game is scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday and will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
There were freezing temperatures in Starkville Tuesday afternoon but the forecast called for a warming trend throughout the rest of the day. There was a slight chance of some snow but primarily rain on Wednesday.
Once it gets to Starkville, Georgia’s only real concerns is getting back.
“The greatest concern that I have is the trip home,” Fox said. “Looking at the forecast it appears that might be a little more treacherous. It looks like if we can’t get out of Starkville, we may have to stay there. But we’ll deal with that when the time comes that day.”
Georgia’s women’s team was having to deal with the weather as well. The Lady Bulldogs left a day early to bus to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Tuesday and fly to College Station, Texas, for a Thursday night game against Texas A&M.
Georgia’s players were taking the travel plans in stride.
“We’re not too concerned,” sophomore guard Kenny Gaines said. “As players we just try to focus on the game itself. We let the coaches and the staff handle the travel and everything. We know that they’ll get us there safely.”
In the meantime, it’s pretty significant game for the Bulldogs (12-10, 6-4 SEC). As always, road wins in the SEC are precious commodities, and Georgia hasn’t gotten one since its stunning overtime victory at Missouri to open conference play. Mississippi State (13-10, 3-7) is going through a rebuilding year and would appear to be vulnerable at home, where it’s 11-3 this season after Saturday’s loss to Kentucky.
But the Bulldogs were feeling the same way when they traveled to Auburn on February 1. The Tigers had lost 15 of their previous 16 SEC games, yet never trailed en route to defeating Georgia 74-67.
The Bulldogs also don’t know whether forward Nemanja Djurisic will be able to play. The team’s third-leading scorer (10 ppg), Djurisic sprained his right ankle late in this past Saturday’s 62-50 win over Texas A&M. He was unable to practice before the team departed for Starkville.
As for all the uncertainty about travel and rapidly changing intineraries due to the weather, Fox said he didn’t think it would have an adverse effect on how the team plays.
“The fact that there was no class today allows us to get done what we need to get done and get on the road,” he said. “I don’t think it should be a factor.”