Communication No Easy Task at 'The Linc'
As they stood at midfield prior to the game, each making sure that they were on their respective sides of the midfield stripe, Syracuse coach John Desko and Denver coach Bill Tierney were talking amiably. They looked very much like neighbors standing on each side of a picket fence chatting about local gossip or the weather.
That would be the easiest communication of the day for both coaches.
One of the realities of playing in a NFL stadium is how difficult it is to be heard outside of a 15-yard radius, which was at times narrowed down to 10 yards with the wind that was gusting through Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon. Coaches struggled to communicate with their players and found that many of their pleas to the officials never made it to their destinations, despite the fact that Saturday's attendance of 28,444 was the lowest for a single-day session since championship weekend went to NFL stadiums.
I was standing next to the table closest to the Syracuse sideline, and I could barely hear Desko lobbying for a push call near the end of the first half. There was no way it was going to make it to the officials on the other end of the field (although Desko and the officials had a reasonable conversation about the play at the break).
It wasn't easy for the officials, either. The ambient noise was loud that they had a difficult time hearing their timers going off, prompting one ref to suggest that they might have to come up for a different timer for these types of venues in the officials' locker room after the contest.
Denver made one concession to the noise in advance by having signs that would be held up when the Pioneers were on offense on the opposite end of the field from their bench. They consisted of such cryptic phrases like "Umbrella Green," but they were also accompanied by the reflexive shouting of the phrase by the assistant coaches.
All of the teams used some form of non-verbal communication, mostly hand signals, with varied results.
When the game is watched on television, or even from the press box, there's a tendency to think that they are played in a vacuum. In the smaller on-campus stadiums, there are certainly less auditory obstacles. But in the big venues on a windy day, things can get difficult. It's a credit to the coaches, players and officials that the contests were as well-played as they were considering the conditions.