CHAMPAIGN — Let’s get the important information out there first. There will be Big Ten basketball played tonight at State Farm Center.
The 8 p.m. tipoff between No. 18 Illinois and No. 11 Wisconsin is on as scheduled. Even with the potential for 12-18 inches of snow to blanket Champaign-Urbana.
The Badgers arrived in Champaign late Tuesday afternoon. One official was set to arrive Tuesday night; the other two, traveling together from Indianapolis, were scheduled to be here early this morning.
So the game will be played.
Everything else about the logistics of hosting an event where more than 14,000 tickets had already been sold with the threat of the heaviest snowfall of the year looming, though, was in wait-and-see mode.
Planning started Monday, but until snow falls, all the State Farm Center and Division of Intercollegiate Athletics event staffs can do is wait.
“The key is getting the team and officials here,” said Zach Acton, Illinois’ assistant athletic director for event management. “We’ll have a game. We communicated with Big Ten Network to see about the arrival of the production truck and trying to bump that arrival a little earlier in the day (Wednesday).
“Those conversations have already started to happen,” Acton said. “It’s kind of wait and see. We don’t want to pull the trigger too soon until we see the amount of snow start to come down.”
Snow on the ground necessitates snow removal from the parking lots at State Farm Center and across First Street in Lot E-14. The northeast parking lot at State Farm Center is tackled first, with Illinois and Wisconsin both going through a shoot-around earlier in the day.
“You have to prepare for the worst,” Acton said. “I think we’re all preparing for 2 feet of snow. The biggest issue is the parking lots. We have to prepare as if 14,000 are coming.
“Trying to keep up with those four quads around State Farm Center is a chore in itself. Where are you going to put all that snow? That’s Step 1, is to make sure our parking lots are clear so people can safely get into the parking lot and into the venue.”
Getting into State Farm Center could also be affected by the weather. Acton said some event staff have already called off for today. That, in addition to constant staffing challenges caused by the pandemic this season, could mean only the main east and west entrances and a couple upper entrances would be open. That information will be communicated via social media if changes are made.
Illinois put out a message early Tuesday evening from men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood asking that fans who know they won’t be able to make it to today’s game visit the team’s official Facebook account (@IlliniBasketball) and connect with local fans who are interested and able to attend.
“If we need a snow plow to go get (the players), we’ll figure that out,” Underwood said during his Tuesday media availability. “I hope all the fans and all the students that can come and be safe — feel safe doing it — can get here.
“I know it’s not something you want to get out in, but, man, it’s going to be a heck of a college basketball game. Our guys would love to see this place rocking and rolling.”