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Travel curfews dismay Tanner

Ray Tanner
Ray Tanner

When the USC baseball team goes to LSU this weekend, it will take a chartered plane, thus avoiding a travel issue that caused a rare tie on Sunday between Georgia and LSU.

But such a nightmare scenario could be an issue in two weekends, when USC flies commercial to Arkansas. A curfew will be in place for the Sunday finale, and although the chances are remote, a tie will be a possibility.

Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said he tried to avoid the issue by requesting two charter flights for this season. The administration granted him one.

“I wouldn’t say I’m upset,” Tanner said. “I think we’re back in that situation again that Georgia and LSU went through (Sunday). It’s a predicament that you find yourself in. I just don’t think a game should be decided that way.”

Curfews — predetermined times, based on a team’s travel requirements, after which no inning can begin — are part of SEC rules. They exist because of financial concerns. When teams fly commercial, catching the plane takes priority over finishing games.

A quick game averted a problem on Sunday when USC played Mississippi at noon. The Rebels flew commercial out of Charlotte a little after 7 p.m., so the coaches agreed that no inning could start after 3:30. USC won 4-1, and the game was over just before 2:30.

Curfews can be avoided by chartering planes, which is the most expensive option, or by chartering buses, which is a cheaper but much longer option.

Flying commercial is cheaper than taking a charter. But getting reservations for late flights on Sunday can be difficult, especially with a traveling party that can reach nearly 40 people.

On May 11, USC’s series finale at Arkansas, the Gamecocks are scheduled to fly out of Fayetteville at 6:01 CDT. That was the last flight from Fayetteville to Charlotte available that night, according to USC. Tanner said the game was moved up to noon local time in an effort to avoid a travel problem.

Sunday’s tie between Georgia and LSU occurred when the game was called after 12 innings because of the curfew. No innings could start after 4 p.m. CDT because Georgia had to catch a flight home. The Bulldogs rushed to the airport, wearing their uniforms on the plane.

Tanner said it was “very poor” for a baseball-heavy conference, such as the SEC, to have games end in a tie.

“I think the athletics directors should take charge of the situation and see that that doesn’t happen in the future,” Tanner said. “I’d like to see the AD’s look at baseball being more of a priority than a game ending in a tie. And I think they should make arrangements or accommodations for teams not to be in that kind of situation.”

Attempts to reach USC athletics director Eric Hyman for comment on Monday were unsuccessful. Athletics department spokesman Steve Fink said that every sport “has a budget they work from. And there are a lot of things that factor in to what we have available to spend on baseball.”

Tanner said he assumed that money was a big factor why more teams don’t get chartered flights.

“But I don’t think that should happen,” Tanner said. “You’re asking my opinion, (SEC) commissioner (Mike) Slive or Mr. Hyman might not agree with me, but I’m entitled to an opinion. I don’t think that baseball games should be tied. If a game gets rained out, Mother Nature you can’t control. But you shouldn’t have a tie in a baseball game.”

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.