CHARLESTON — In its final year of existence, the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-O-Rama seems determined to make as much news off the field as it does on the field.
The 15th MSAC Grid endured bouts of uncertainty Friday morning and afternoon, but its first round of preseason scrimmages went off as scheduled Friday evening, as league powers Capital, Huntington and Spring Valley tangled under cool and cloudy skies at University of Charleston Stadium.
Earlier this summer, the league announced it was discontinuing the Grid-O-Rama after this year because most of its coaches weren't in favor of the format.
And for a long time Friday, there was legitimate concern whether the MSAC teams could hold those final scrimmages.
First, UC Stadium workers scrambled with last-minute details to get the field ready. Sections of the artificial turf and goal posts needed attention following damage from the tornado that touched down in Charleston in June. Added to that was the continuing work being done on replacing the all-weather track that circles the football field.
In fact, hours before Spring Valley and Huntington began their 6 p.m. scrimmage, end zone turf sections were being glued down. That effort was delayed by overnight drenching rains that hit downtown Charleston and didn't let up until about noon.
But that wasn't the only snag. Capital coach Jon Carpenter informed MSAC Commissioner Jim Hamric late Thursday that he was pulling his team out of its scrimmages with Huntington and Spring Valley, ostensibly because he felt his players hadn't gotten in enough quality practice time this month at their home base, UC Stadium, because of all the construction being done there. The Cougars were forced to hold many of their workouts at DuPont Middle School.
On Friday afternoon, Hamric acknowledged Capital's absence and said that Huntington and Spring Valley would hold a two-hour scrimmage instead of taking turns working out against Capital for an hour each.
Then shortly after 4 p.m., Carpenter apparently changed his mind and decided to go ahead and scrimmage under the original schedule. Hamric acknowledged that the topic of a possible league-imposed fine did come up in his discussions with Capital school officials.
Late-arriving Spring Valley fans might not have caught a glimpse of their starting lineups on Friday. Due to the three-team setup and because the Timberwolves had to wait an hour between their scrimmages with Huntington and Capital, they weren't going to use first-string players against Capital after those players had already cooled down.
The two-day event concludes Saturday with the league's other eight teams competing.
St. Albans and Woodrow Wilson meet at 10 a.m., followed by George Washington and Cabell Midland at noon, Riverside and Parkersburg at 2 p.m., and Hurricane against South Charleston at 4.
Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for students.