It’s Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 or Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, and the Bryant High School basketball teams have conference games at Siloam Springs. There’s time for maybe one class in the morning of the game then about 10 or 11 a.m., the teams climb onto the bus or buses and head north. It’s normally a drive of about four hours in a bus. You go to Fayetteville and turn left all the way to the Oklahoma border. The coaches have to figure in some time for a meal as well, perhaps a stop in Alma.
It’s a nice day for February in Bryant, 50 degrees, partly cloudy skies. The forecast for northwest Arkansas is cold temperatures at night but it’s supposed to stay above freezing. There’s just a 20 percent chance of precipitation.
The weather’s fine as the buses turn north onto I-540 at Alma but along about Mountainburg, it starts to rain.
Now, I-540 is a beautiful drive through the mountains on a nice day and one of the engineering marvels about it is the long, high bridges that span the valleys along the way. Oh, and the Bobby Hopper Tunnel is unique as well.
But coming right out of the tunnel, there’s one of those bridges with a curve in it then an uphill climb.
So, it’s raining and the temperature is dipping into the upper 30’s. No problem, right? But the wind kicks up, a cold northern wind that sweeps over the top of those bridges and under them too. Even when the temperature is above freezing, the wind chill over and under the bridge creates black ice.
Well, you can imagine the rest . . .
Of course, even if the weather is decent, if the games are on a Tuesday, the teams would get there for 5 p.m. starts, take three or four hours to play then they are back on the buses headed south. By the time they get home, it’s 1 or 2 a.m. Everybody gets into bed by 3 and, well, Wednesday’s classes become a blur.
And with volleyball, a Tuesday-Thursday sport, that’s all going to be a given.
Here’s the new Central Conference that the Arkansas Activities Association cobbled together for the 2014-16 cycle: Bryant, Catholic, Conway, Van Buren of Class 7A, and Alma, Greenwood, Russellville and Siloam Springs of 6A.
Van Buren with be 328 miles roundtrip, Alma and Greenwood each 312 miles roundtrip, and Siloam Springs? 458 miles roundtrip.
Any questions about why Bryant is taking the Arkansas Activities Association to court about the new conference assignment?