Terps, Hokies play waiting game while burst pipes delay game

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 28, 2010

BLACKSBURG, VA. -- Since 1961, Cassell Coliseum has been home to Virginia Tech's basketball teams. But on Saturday, it hosted facilities workers in muddy coveralls and camouflage caps.

Maryland defeated the Hokies, 104-100, in a double-overtime thriller on Saturday, but at first it seemed like it would be something of an epilogue after three separate pipes burst on Virginia Tech's campus, resulting in a three-hour delay and causing a most unusual scene at the arena.

"It's not something that you experience," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said of the unusual delay. "We had a game postponed with snow this year, but to come here and get off the river coming down the road when you get off the bus, it was something."

Water gurgled down a flight of stairs outside Cassell Coliseum and mud caked the surrounding sidewalks. Around 4 p.m., the original tip-off time, the gym was empty except for reporters. Officials from the schools paced around as plans for the game time and television arrangements were hashed out on cellphones.

"It's frustrating," said Tom Gabbard, Virginia Tech's associate athletic director for internal affairs. "You'd like for it to happen without 10,000 people coming here. But things happen."

The epicenter of a headache-inducing afternoon was once the site of a fire hydrant that no longer exists. Around 1 p.m., a catering truck delivering beer to an alumni fundraiser ran into a fire hydrant near the arena, which set off a fiasco.

School facilities workers attempted to find the shut-off valve to the line to the fire hydrant, but it was under water and could not be located. Workers dug a five-foot-deep hole.

In an effort to correct the problem, the facilities workers shut of the main water line to the arena. But then the real trouble started. When workers shut off the main line, the back pressure blew another water line on campus at 1:10 p.m. Cassell Coliseum was left without water.

At 2:10 p.m., a school facilities worker told Gabbard he could have the problem fixed in four hours. The tip-off time was moved to 6:30 p.m. and then delayed again until 7 p.m. in order to be televised by more affiliates.

Asked how the delay affected the Hokies, guard Malcolm Delaney said: "They had a delay too. It didn't affect us at all."

Players from both teams were warming up on the court at 2:30 before an announcement over the loudspeakers said the game had been delayed.

Maryland hung out in the Hokies' football team lounge. Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg sent his players home and headed for a personal workout and then watched North Carolina's upset of Wake Forest.

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