Games postponed due to Hurricane Katrina

Updated: August 30, 2005, 9:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Hurricane Katrina forced the postponement Tuesday of five NCAA football games, including Tulane vs. Southern Mississpippi at Hattiesburg and North Texas vs. Louisiana State at Baton Rouge.

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The Tulane-Southern Mississippi game that was supposed to be played Sunday has been moved to the Saturday after Thanksgiving because of the problems caused by Katrina.

The North Texas-LSU game has not been rescheduled because the teams don't share an off day until Dec. 3, a day on which LSU could be playing in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Baton Rouge, however, didn't suffer near the damage that New Orleans and Hattiesburg did Monday.

In other changes, Nicholls State's game at Utah State on Saturday has been canceled. Nicholls State is located in Thibodaux, La.

Also, Southern University's game Saturday at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., has been canceled, and Jacksonville's game Thursday night at Hammond -- between New Orleans and Baton Rouge -- has been postponed indefinitely.

"We have been in contact with the administrators for both universities and we all agree that the focus of our attention should be on the continued safety of the student-athletes, coaches and the lives of those affected by this storm," Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said Tuesday. "Playing a football game is not our highest priority at this time."

Tulane and Southern Miss were scheduled to end their seasons Nov. 19. Now, their opener will become their finale on Nov. 26.

ESPN2, which was to carry Sunday's game, told the conference it will still try honoring those plans.

The Green Wave football team, which had moved to Jackson, Miss., on Sunday, only to have Katrina move right through that city as well, spent Tuesday on a seven-hour bus ride to Dallas. The team will stay at a hotel near SMU and work out at the Mustangs' campus for the foreseeable future.

The Golden Eagles, whose campus also stood right in the path of the epic storm, have moved to Memphis, some five hours north. The team will stay at a hotel there and work out at the University of Memphis' facilities.

Banowsky said his office spent most of Tuesday serving as a help desk and clearinghouse for the two Conference USA schools. According to the commissioner, officials at both campuses could call out but not receive calls, so the league office helped coordinate the postponement of the game and the logistics of moving the teams.

The schools caught a break on scheduling. Not only were they scheduled to play each other Sept. 4, but both had been scheduled to have their season conclude on Nov. 19. That left Thanksgiving weekend available. In addition, with a Sunday game, Tulane had Saturday, Sept. 10, as an idle date, which gives the team more time to get its life together before the new start of its season on Sept. 17.

The larger picture, however, concerns what happens if school is postponed indefinitely. As New Orleans continued to fill with water on Tuesday, the possibility existed that Tulane may not open for a long time.

"It's too early to speculate whether schools will be closed three weeks or a month," Banowsky said from his office in Dallas. "People are still in an assessment mode."

Banowsky said the conference office blocked the hotel rooms for Tulane in Dallas for three weeks. He added that players will be allowed to return home to their families in the short term, and will then return to Dallas to resume practice. The NCAA allows the university to pay for the players' transportation home in such an emergency.

The situation is less dire in Hattiesburg, but Banowsky said power may not be restored on the Southern Mississippi campus until next week.

"The good news is, there hasn't been any loss of life related to any of the schools' athletic departments," Banowsky said. "All of this can be put together. It's a hassle, but that's all."

If Tulane has trouble opening its doors in the near future, that could lead to a football team playing without a university. That may be a first, and brings to mind all sorts of issues regarding not only rescheduling, but academic progress.

"That's the type of situation that doesn't come up very often, thankfully," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said Tuesday. "We'd certainly work with one of our members to be as flexible as possible. It will really depend on what transpires at Tulane."

In the meantime, Banowsky said his office has received many calls asking how they can help Tulane and Southern Mississippi. The Green Wave will have dinner Tuesday night at Louisiana Tech.

"When the Tulane team drives through Ruston," Banowsky said, "Louisiana Tech will have food for them. Their athletic director, Jim Oakes, called and asked, 'What can we do?' "

It marks the second straight year both schools have had a football game postponed. Last September, Tulane had to reschedule a contest vs. Louisville and Southern Miss had to move a game vs. California due to Hurricane Ivan.

LSU announced in a statement it had chosen to reschedule its contest so the campus could help the recovery effort. LSU has canceled classes until Sept. 6.

"The scope of this tragedy is becoming more evident as time passes, and LSU's focus in on assisting the recovery effort of our state," LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe said. "LSU is a primary evacuation site, and we are not going to conduct any activities that could deter our mission of assisting in the recovery."

LSU's Carl Maddox Field House is being used a Special Needs Shelter, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center has been designated as a triage unit for medical emergencies, and the Bernie Moore Track will be used as a helicopter landing site.

"The events of [Monday] and [Tuesday] morning have made it clear that this is not the time to play a football game," said LSU athletic director Skip Bertman on Tuesday. "This is a dire situation that rivals any in the history of our state, and our priorities are on participating in recovery efforts."

The rescheduled date for LSU's contest will be determined by the two schools and an announcement is expected within the next 36 to 48 hours.

ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel and ESPN's Joe Schad contributed to this report, which includes information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker.

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