Snow Problem

By Staff

Athletic Management, 15.4, June/July 2003,

The biggest game in the University of Vermont men’s basketball history was March 20 in Salt Lake City, when the Catamounts faced the University of Arizona in their first ever NCAA tournament game. Unfortunately, on March 19 the team was stuck 500 miles away in Denver, thanks to a late-season snowstorm that left the Colorado airport closed.

The team had planned to arrive in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 18, after changing planes in Chicago and Denver. Instead, their best chance of making Thursday afternoon’s NCAA tourney game entailed taking a charter bus to Colorado Springs and then a late Wednesday charter flight to Salt Lake City. Another problem was that the players had gone over 48 hours without a practice and would arrive in Salt Lake City far too late to practice there.

The solution? Some quick thinking and a little help from friends. Vermont Associate Athletic Director Jeff Schulman, who was traveling with the team, remembered that University of New Hampshire Athletic Director Marty Scarano had previously been athletic director at Colorado College, which is located in Colorado Springs.

“As the bus pulled into Colorado Springs, I called him up and told him exactly where we were,” Schulman says, “and he said ‘Okay, make a right here, a left here, and a right there, and you should be able to see the Colorado College gym.’ I got out of the bus and eventually ran into their lacrosse coach.

“He had heard about us on the news and was very helpful,” Schulman continues. “A lacrosse team was practicing in the main gym, but they allowed us to practice in the auxiliary gym.

“When we left Burlington, we were expecting to be at an NCAA open practice in front of thousands of people sandwiched between Duke’s and Arizona’s practices. Instead, we were scrounging around for intramural basketballs at Colorado College in a back-up gym,” he says. “But it worked out well. The guys got a little run in and I think that made a difference in how they felt once we landed in Salt Lake City.”

Although the Catamounts lost to number-one seed Arizona, they were there, thanks to help from others. “The relationships you develop with colleagues at other schools is one of the things I enjoy about this profession,” says Schulman, who also praised the efforts of the NCAA and Worldtek Travel. “In a situation like this, when we needed some help, there were lots of people willing to support us and do whatever they could .”

The trip back to Vermont was much smoother as the NCAA provided the Catamounts a charter plane—one that had served as the tour plane for the Rolling Stones. “That was a new experience for everybody on that plane,” he says. “All those things contributed to the feeling that this wasn’t a normal road trip, and it was something special. And I think that’s what participating in an NCAA championship should be for a school like ours.”