Ann Arbor — It remains unclear how Hurricane Joaquin might affect Michigan’s Big Ten opener at Maryland Saturday night, but it certainly has captured the attention of Big Ten officials.
The Big Ten Network, which is televising the game, canceled the network’s studio shows from outside Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md. Meanwhile, the Big Ten and BTN are monitoring the weather to determine whether the game will remain an 8 p.m. kickoff.
Joaquin has been a challenging storm to gauge by meteorologists, but according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA.gov) late Wednesday, the forecast is certainly not ideal. Heavy rain is expected all day Friday, and all day Saturday the forecast is for breezy with a 90 percent chance of rain.
“The safety of game participants and fans is paramount,” Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman wrote in an email to The Detroit News on Wednesday. “While there is no timetable by which decisions must be made prior to the game, there are established protocols to address game postponements, suspensions and/or game rescheduling.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates when appropriate.”
The Big Ten likely will make a decision by this evening. The Michigan team plans to fly midday Friday to Maryland.
Among the options is moving kickoff earlier on Saturday. Minnesota’s game at Northwestern is scheduled for noon on BTN, with Nebraska at Illinois on the network at 3:30 p.m.
It is unclear where, when or if the hurricane will make landfall, but some projections indicate it could hit the Eastern U.S. anywhere from North Carolina to Delaware initially. Regardless, experts have said heavy rain is in the forecast.
As far as game preparations, nothing has changed for the Michigan Wolverines.
“We’re kind of a weather-proof team,” Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said Wednesday before practice. “I think, so it’s not something we’re really concerned about.
“We’ll play anywhere. We’ll play on the moon or Mars. They found water there, so maybe that’s our next spot.”
Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said he knows what the forecast says and certainly is aware of the wet-ball drills some teams use in practice to prepare for wet weather, but he’s sticking to the status quo.
“You don’t change your game plan,” Drevno said Wednesday. “You go with your game plan you originally want to do and stay with it. I’ve been in situations you change everything because of the weather and it really messes with your mindset.”
Michigan’s offense, he said, is versatile enough to handle any kind of weather.
“We can spread out, we can bring it in tight, we can throw the ball deep, we can throw it intermediate, we can run the toss play — we’ve got a lot of different things. We’re not one-dimensional. We can adapt and change quickly for what people are giving us.”
But can it change quickly for the weather? Time will tell, of course, but BTN didn’t waste time determining whether its studio crew could be based outside Byrd Stadium for the shows after Joaquin was elevated from a tropical storm.
The network announced Wednesday morning, after Joaquin was elevated from a tropical storm, it would cancel the studio shows from Maryland.
“Given the threat of a hurricane hitting a large part of the Eastern Seaboard this weekend, BTN has decided to postpone the planned broadcast Saturday of its football studio shows from outside Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium,” a statement from the Big Ten Network read. “Safety concerns for crew and fans and the uncertainty surrounding the storm’s path led to the network’s decision. BTN will reschedule the visit for a later date.”