How cold could it be for Saturday night’s LSU-Arkansas game?
So cold that longtime LSU equipment manager Greg Stringfellow may actually wear long pants.
“I always wear shorts,” he said. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t. As long as there are no issues with snow or something like that, I’ll be in shorts for games. I like to be dry, though.
“If it snows, I might put rain pants over my shorts. I guess it’s kind of a pride thing with some of the equipment managers around the SEC.”
The chance of snow for Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff in Fayetteville has abated as the game draws closer.
What was forecast to be an 80 percent chance of snow as of Thursday morning dwindled to 20 percent by 8 p.m. Thursday, according to The Weather Channel. If there’s snow, it’s more likely to come Sunday.
So Stringfellow may get to leave his long pants in the equipment locker.
If it does snow, it would be the first time frozen precipitation has fallen on an LSU game since at least the 1997 Independence Bowl in Shreveport against Notre Dame. But even if it doesn’t snow, that doesn’t mean the game might not be bone-chilling cold for most everyone else involved.
It could be the coldest weather for an LSU football game ever.
Record keeping on temperatures at kickoff for LSU football games gets hazy going back to the 1960s. But according to research by The Advocate, the Tigers’ coldest game at kickoff was in 1992 for its first game ever in Fayetteville.
It was 31 degrees for a day game Nov. 27, 1992, with ice glazing parts of the turf.
The Tigers played about as well as a bunch of ice cubes. LSU put up token resistance, falling 30-6 to the Razorbacks — one last cold splash of defeat to wrap up a 2-9 season that ranks as one of the worst in program history.
The forecast as of Thursday evening was for a high of 39 degrees Saturday in Fayetteville.
But the sun will have long gone down by the time the game kicks off on ESPN2, with temperatures expected to drop somewhere near the freezing mark. If the forecast holds, it will be the coldest game of the Les Miles era at LSU.
To date, the coldest game of his 10-year regime was Nov. 19, 2005 in Oxford, Mississippi, when it was 43 degrees at kickoff. LSU went on to beat Ole Miss 40-7.
Miles jokingly told reporters during Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference that the Tigers were experimenting this week with dry ice and electric fans on the sidelines during practice.
That wasn’t the case, of course, but Miles did have his team practicing outdoors in chilly night conditions this week while players tried to find the right type of uniforms and equipment to wear.
“We’ve been trying on long sleeves and stuff,” linebacker Deion Jones said, “seeing if we’re comfortable playing in it.”
“The most important thing is you don’t want the conditions to be a factor or a distraction for the players,” Stringfellow said. “Everybody just wants to be warm, and you do the best you can to keep them all warm.”
Stringfellow put in a call last week to Nike, LSU’s equipment and uniform supplier, to update the team’s cold-weather gear.
His crew spent time this week loading up LSU’s 18-wheeled equipment trailer for the nine-hour trek north with hand warmers, thermal tights, thermal undershirts, ski mask-type headwear that will fit under players’ helmets and heaters.
Lots of heaters. Stringfellow said the team will bring about a dozen heaters of different types and strengths that LSU will place along the sideline.
He said there will be a special heating area for the quarterbacks and kickers.
“The skill players, especially the backs and receivers, need special gloves, but the linemen are pretty low-maintenance guys,” Stringfellow said. “They just suck it up and handle just about anything.”
That’s pretty much the attitude Miles wants his players to have.
“You have to be able to defeat the elements as well as your opponent,” he said.
Despite the fact that he grew up playing high school football in Ohio, college ball in Michigan and coached at Oklahoma State and with the Dallas Cowboys, Miles said he couldn’t recall any extremely adverse weather during his career.
Playing football with the other kids on his block growing up in Elyria, Ohio, was another matter.
“Probably my coldest experience was a neighborhood game with socks on my hands and having a blast,” Miles said with a wistful smile. “I’ve been fortunate.”
For many of LSU’s Southern-born players, this likely will be the coldest game they’ve ever played in.
For them, Tigers defensive tackle Christian LaCouture, who played high school football in Nebraska but also lived in Maine and Massachusetts, offered advice that even the most thin-blooded South Louisianians can relate to.
“The one thing I was telling a couple of my buddies is put your air conditioner (in your apartment) lower than usual,” he said. “The bill might be a little bit too expensive but, in all seriousness, that will really help get your body accustomed to it. And get in the cold tub a little more than usual.”
Long pants are optional.
Follow Scott Rabalais and Sheldon Mickles on Twitter at @RabalaisAdv and @MicklesAdvocate.