The NCAA officially has entered the realm of “you’ve got to be kidding.”
Sunday, when the NCAA playoff selection committee announced the first-round pairings for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, it paired UND with Nicholls State, a program in Thibodaux, La. The committee gave Nicholls State the home-field advantage, apparently after Nicholls outbid UND for the honor.
Just one problem: The facilities at Nicholls State.
The Herald reported this week that UND will dress in a tent adjacent to the field and shower in portable showers set up in a parking lot. As sports reporter Tom Miller wrote: “The UND football team won’t exactly receive red-carpet treatment for the program’s first trip to Louisiana in 10 years. Nicholls State’s visiting locker room consists of temporary tents located outside John L. Guidry Stadium.”
Apparently, it’s been this way for visiting teams in Thibodaux for at least two years as Nicholls State completes a $6.5 million renovation to its football facility. The work likely will be finished in time for the 2020 season and, according to the school’s media relations director, “that’ll take care of the problem.”
Photos have been circulating online about the spartan conditions at Nicholls State. One shows players from a visiting team crowded into a tent, sitting on metal folding chairs; some players are on the tent floor, trying to stretch out before a game.
A reporter who covered a game there earlier this year wrote on social media that “the coaches and players got ready in a big tent. By the end of the game, they were changing in 40-degree weather, pretty much outside. And they had portable toilets and showers. Nicholls is in Division I; I’d expect that from a high school, maybe.”
Another guest wrote: “Nicholls St. people are outstanding. But visiting football teams should never be put in a tent and portable showers in a public parking lot.”
Temperatures for Saturday’s 3 p.m. playoff game likely will be in the 70s, but there is a good chance of rain. Add that meteorological possibility as one more inconvenience for players who will be forced to prepare for the game in a tent.
Talk about home-field advantage.
To the credit of UND, players evidently aren’t too worked up about it. After all, the 7-4 Fighting Hawks are simply happy to be in the playoffs; they have bigger concerns than where they will dress or shower.
“It’s just another big challenge,” UND player Evan Holm told the Herald.
Good for Holm and the Hawks for shrugging it off.
As Holm said, it’s a challenge. But it’s a challenge the NCAA never – ever – should have allowed. No team that forces players to dress in a tent in a parking lot should be eligible to host a playoff game, no matter what the size of their winning bid. This is Division I football.
The NCAA looks foolish for allowing this to happen.