Amidst wildfire disaster, San Diego State resumes practice indoors

Updated: October 25, 2007, 3:48 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Days after their game against BYU was postponed until Dec. 1 due to the Southern California wildfires, San Diego State's football team is practicing indoors at the Aztec Rec Center.

Assistant AD Mike May told ESPN's "College Football Live" that the team is in full pads on a basketball court and practicing twice a day. May also said all coaches are back home, or have been greenlighted to move back.

The Aztec's home venue, Qualcomm Stadium, is being used as an evacuation center for residents displaced by wildfires.

"There is a far greater priority than sporting events in the San Diego area at this time," Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. "The focus should be on emergency response and resources, and getting the community back on its feet. Our thoughts are with our colleagues at San Diego State University, as well as everyone who has been affected by this disaster."

Thompson made the decision to postpone, on a recommendation by SDSU.

"If we took away even one evacuee because we wanted to play a football game, that just wouldn't be right," athletic director Jeff Schemmel said. "This is far, far more important."

Schemmel, coach Chuck Long, defensive coordinator Bob Elliott and offensive coordinator Del Miller were among 40 people on SDSU's athletic staff who had to evacuate their homes. Schemmel said he thinks everyone's home is OK.

Other factors that led to the decision were air quality, fan safety and transportation considerations.

The NFL's Chargers are scheduled to play the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium. The NFL and the team are discussing what to do about that game.

Also, the Lakers announced late Tuesday that Thursday's scheduled Jazz-Lakers preseason game in San Diego had been canceled.

Lakers VP Tim Harris said that that there was "simply too much devastation in the area and too much uncertainty about what will happen over the next few days." He added that the Lakers will make a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross.

All other SDSU athletic events will be postponed or moved to alternate sites.

The MWC men's and women's cross country championships, originally scheduled for Saturday at Mission Bay, will be moved to Albuquerque, N.M. The cross country championships also were moved from San Diego to Albuquerque in 2003 due to wildfires.

Wednesday, San Diego closed all of its schools for the remainder of the week and all activities and games were canceled through Saturday. In Los Angeles, all outdoor activity, including practices, were canceled until further notice.

While teams at UCLA and USC were continuing to practice, air quality was said to be 10 times worse than normal. At USC, smoke from the fires was visible and was making the air tough to breathe.

In an e-mail on Wednesday, USC sports information diector Tim Tessalone told ESPN's Shelley Smith the school is monitoring the situation closely and remains vigilant with regard to players with asthma-type conditions.

"We felt it was acceptable to practice yesterday and our players had no difficulties. At this point, we will practice late this afternoon, as usual," he said.

UCLA says it also is monitoring the situation carefully.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday more than 300,000 people have been evacuated and some 8,000 of those people had sought refuge at Qualcomm, home to the Chargers and San Diego State's Aztecs. Up to 1,000 homes have been destroyed and the governor said that 1,500 more homes remain in danger.

"If you're told to evacuate, evacuate. Safety is the most important thing," Schwarzenegger said, according to ABC News.

There have been two confirmed deaths and 34 people have been seriously injured, The Associated Press reports.

"There's just so much going on in this city right now and the fires that it's hard to think about a football game at this point," Long said during an interview on "College Football Live" on ESPN earlier Tuesday.

"The air quality is so bad that you can't practice. You can't breathe if you go outside for any length of time."

Qualcomm is in Mission Valley, northeast of downtown and out of harm's way, but Thompson said earlier on Tuesday that the plight of evacuees was tipping the decision toward postponement.

"The question is where do all those people go and how long do you need to prepare the stadium for a football game," Thompson said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

According to the paper, the idea of moving the game to Provo, Utah, was brought up but dismissed.

"That is much the reason we went to nine members to get back to the 4-4 home-road balance," Thompson said.

Long said that every member of the Aztecs football team and staff had been accounted for. The Tribune said that 70 SDSU athletes went to Qualcomm on Tuesday night to pass out blankets and food to families that had been evacuated.

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall told the newspaper that he understood why the game had to be postponed.

"I think in relation to what's going on football would be secondary to any of that. Basically, my perspective and philosophy is that football is secondary to our lives in general," he said. "If it's necessary that we postpone this game or play it another time, then I would support that. I would prefer to keep the game on if possible, but there's no question that football is secondary to the families and the losses in San Diego."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.