Alabama A&M travels into Hurricane Joaquin, can’t escape bad weather

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Alabama A&M football coach James Spady was looking forward to the challenge of playing the No. 1 FCS team in the country.

Coastal Carolina kept its record perfect Saturday with a 55-0 victory over Alabama A&M on a rain-soaked field at Brooks Stadium affected by Hurricane Joaquin. The Chanticleers weren’t the only challenge for Alabama A&M.

Bad weather has been a theme for the Bulldogs this season. Their season opener at Cincinnati was delayed for over 90 minutes because of lightning from thunderstorms in the area. A&M beat Arkansas-Pine Bluff last week with rain falling on A&M’s Louis Crews Stadium.
“We got lucky (Saturday) because it was raining cats and dogs before the game and we’re thinking we’re going to have some really crappy weather, but as it turns out, it didn’t rain during the game,” Spady told me Sunday afternoon.

Joaquin pushed the kickoff time of Saturday’s game from 6 p.m. ET to 2 p.m., which forced the Bulldogs to move several team meetings scheduled for Saturday morning to Friday night.

James Spady

Alabama A&M football coach James Spady

“You try to get the players in the right frame of mind — wet field, wet ball — make your plays and manage the game and do all the stuff we talk about,” said Spady, who was the tight ends coach at Nevada from 2010-13 before taking over the Bulldogs program.

“We needed to change the entire weekend schedule, but it’s no excuse,” Spady added. “You make do with what you have to do. Knowing there was a hurricane coming in, we knew there would be some adjustments. It made an already difficult trip a little harder, in terms of logistics. Once you get on the field, it just becomes football.”

Hurricane Joaquin didn’t just affect Saturday’s game in nearby Conway, S.C., it’s also affecting A&M’s practice this week. The truck with the team’s equipment was stuck in South Carolina on Sunday because flooding made roads impassable and Spady is unsure whether or not the team’s equipment will return to Alabama in time for Tuesday’s practice.

As for Coastal Carolina, which is ranked No. 1 in the FCS and will transition to the FBS level next year, Spady believes the Chanticleers — coached by former Ameritrade CEO and current chairman Joe Moglia — will compete right away in the Sun Belt Conference.

“They’re pretty good, 55-0 good,” Spady said. “It was evident the skill level was a little bit deeper for them than it was for us. We’ve got players who match up well against them, but they have more good players. That’s what we aspire to — we want to be that level of program where you can go two or three deep on the offensive and defensive line.

“They’re not far off. Coastal certainly has the skill level to compete in the FBS. I don’t see them falling off very far. They’re right on track. It’s a real class program.”

While at Nevada, Spady worked with current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and “has no doubt” Kaepernick can turn around his awful season thus far. Spady also worked for current Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid as a coaching intern with the Green Bay Packers in 1997 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999.

“He’s one of my favorite people on the planet,” Spady said of Reid, who coached Spady at UTEP. “I draw from a lot of the wisdom he imparted. I hear myself sounding like him a lot. That’s not the worst thing.”

The Bulldogs will play at Grambling Saturday and the weather forecast is calling for partly cloudy skies with a high of 81 and a 10 percent chance of rain. Spady and his team will take those odds — now if they can only get their equipment to arrive in time for practice.

About Ron Clements

Wisconsin native, former Marine, Summa Cum Laude graduate of East Carolina University and a working sports journalist since 1999.