We are expecting a decision soon from the OU brass about which option they'll take to get the OU football team to Manhattan.
We were scheduled to leave AAR at the OKC Airport at 2:45. The team was scheduled for a light but important walk though practice at KSU around 5:15. However it's going on 9pm and the players have been confined to a smallish area in the AAR lobby while some twenty of us are still on board and have been on the Tarmac now going on six hours.
The plane we are on -- United charter service -- had engine problems. After two hours it was determined unfit to fly. A backup United plane was then scheduled to head to Houston and then pick us up in OKC and on to Manhattan.
However, the pilot's assistant told me an hour ago the plane that's in Houston "has its own maintenance problems". He told me ten minutes ago he can't get Houston United to answer the phone for an update. It appears the second plane is not an option, and if it were it would not arrive in OKC until around 10pm.
It's my understanding that an OU decision on the best option available is forthcoming. I expect that OU AD Joe Castiglione, Bob Stoops and his right hand man Matt McMillan have been evaluating options.
Needless to say this is now a major distraction for a football team that is rigidly regimented in everything they do.
The options seem limited if OU intends for the team to get to Manhattan tonight -- which I can say as a former player you definitely need to do. Same-day travel for a 2:30 CT kick is the last thing you'd ever want to do.
United is the first option. You'd think a major airline that has had two planes inoperable would scurry something this way. But that doesn't appear too shiny of a possibility.
Busing 4.5 to 5 hours would've made sense if they'd pulled out by 5 or 6. But by the time you transport all the gear on this plane off amid get the players and staff on the road they wouldn't get to Manhattan till after 2 a.m. Then you have the food problem. Players had a sandwich on the plane and probably something else while spread out in the lobby. But they eat like cows and must be hydrated and fed properly if they are expected to play a 3.5 hour game tomorrow.
Lining up charter plans is an option. Easier said than done. This isn't a debate team or basketball team. Lots of dudes to load. And then you have compliance and safety regulations that take time.
No option is great. But it's critical that the best decision be made soon. This has become a much bigger deal than expected a few hours ago.
I'll go check on the latest and report back....
Finally a solution!
The United pilot assistant tells me the back up plane in Houston has been cleared and will head to OKC within the next few minutes. This by far the best option -- although I never like flying on planes that had mechanical delays.
My guess is the charter will arrive in OKC around 10 p.m. and that by the time the players are re-loaded and baggage changed we get out of here by 11 p.m. That would put the team EIGHT hours behind schedule.
It's not ideal, but in the end, getting to the Manhattan hotel at midnight beats busing in at 2 in the morning.
Football teams run like clockwork. Schedules are regimented closely. Sleep, food, nutrition, film, meetings, practice. All of it needs to have an order. That's been disrupted. But maybe after a lackluster day in the Cotton Bowl this mix-up will help.