Crunch Time for August 16, 2012
From Roos to Reese, Eastern officials find themselves having to recover some ground
By JOHN McCALLUM
Sometimes when covering a story you stumble across something else of importance.
For example, last Tuesday I was up at Roos Field to take pictures of the old scoreboard being removed in preparation for a brand new, big video scoreboard coming in time for the Montana football game Sept. 29.
A university official happened to notice a 4-5 inch long piece of chain link lying on the pavement near the Washington Street gate. He showed the piece to another official. The two checked the lock and chain on the gate, and yanking on it, the second official turned to the first and said, “Yep, I can tell you this chain used to be longer.”
At this point I'll note that the officials wish to remain silent not out of fear of recriminations or anything like that, they just don't want their names in the paper. Besides, I bore witness to these events.
A suspicion arose, and as we walked out onto the red turf of “The Inferno,” just north of midfield, that suspicion was confirmed. There on the holiest of Eagle holies, the red rug, were tire tracks.
Not large ruts. But tracks nonetheless that were noticeable.
It was probably inevitable someone would think to pull a stunt like this on Eastern's million-dollar football playing surface. I'm sure some people reading this will develop theories and even start a rumor or two about whom the culprit might be.
We do know some facts, however, thanks to area surveillance cameras. According to EWU Police Department detective Quincy Burns, around 3:13 a.m. the morning of Aug. 7 a small vehicle is seen approaching the area of Roos Field, and at approximately 3:41 a.m. that vehicle is seen leaving the same area.
Burns asked that anybody who has any information regarding this malicious mischief please call 359-6314 – especially anybody wishing to come clean of their sins.
“It would be better for them to contact us rather than us contacting them,” Burns added.
I'm not surprised something like this has taken place at Roos, and neither is EWU athletics director Bill Chaves. The highly publicized and nationally recognized Red Turf is an easy mark for a prank, or somebody wishing to make a statement of some kind, although for the life of me I'm not sure what that would be.
The person or persons that did this obviously thought it through since they brought equipment to cut the chain in order to remove the lock. They may not have known, or forgot, about the cameras.
While tire tracks on your football field aren't desirable, Chaves and others were more concerned about what lies underneath the red surface. The rubber and other compounds are what provide the traction and make the surface safe to play on, and would require a lot of time and money to repair. Chaves said he checked with the grounds personnel, and everything appeared OK.
“It seems like we're going to get away with it unscathed,” Chaves said.
As for the tracks, Chaves said they have machines, kind of “mini-zambonies” that will buff out the marks. And he added that they do drive vehicles on the surface, so it can stand up to the pressure of wheels.
“The only thing is we obviously don't do wheelies or donuts on it,” Chaves added. “Unfortunately you have to deal with these things as they transpire, but I think we're going to be OK.”
Which is good because the university is already going to have to foot the bill for another playing surface alteration – this one planned. Several weeks ago in their infinite wisdom to capitalize on the expansion of the conference, Big Sky Conference officials rolled out a brand new logo, one more fitting of a league stretching from California to North Dakota and Washington to Arizona.
When I first saw the new logo in it's white and blue conference colors, which media outlets including the Free Press have already run photos of, the first thing I thought was “Great, it looks like a beer label.”
But conference officials said schools could display the logo in their own colors. Upon seeing it Eagle red and black, it looks much better.
But the logo has to go on both Roos and the hardwood of Reese Court – and Chaves said the conference isn't ponying up any dough to help out. He isn't sure if they'll have the new logo installed at Roos this season since the old logo has to be cut out and the new one stitched into place, but the Big Sky has given schools one academic year to comply.
As for Reese, Eastern was already planning a court re-waxing so putting in a new logo comes at an advantageous time.
“We'll be able to dial in Reese,” Chaves said.
So there you have it, a story about scoreboards that became one about surfaces.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.