As Harvey Rages On, University of Houston Football is Stuck in Austin

As college football season approaches, coaches normally struggle with depth charts and lingering injuries. For first-time head coach Major Applewhite, he’s dealing with a force of nature the severity of which Texas has never seen before.

Displaced by tropical storm Harvey, the University of Houston Cougars are camped out indefinitely in Austin, sleeping at the Westin Domain hotel. The Cougars arrived on Friday afternoon, only a few hours before Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, with no set timeframe to leave, though KXAN reported on Saturday afternoon that they hoped to make it back to Houston on Sunday night, with a day off on Monday. That was before flooding ravaged the city, leaving at least five dead, more than a dozen injured, and forcing thousands to abandon their homes.

“The idea was come up here, get out of the way, and as soon as it’s safe, we head back,” says Senior Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Communications & Digital Media David Bassity. “We can’t go back to Houston until it’s safe, and it doesn’t look like it’s safe right now.”

Bassity says UH reached out to officials at Baylor, SMU, and TCU before settling on UT and Austin’s hotel availabilities. Houston Athletics Director Hunter Yurachek called his counterpart at UT, Mike Perrin, who quickly welcomed the Cougars just nine months after Perrin recruited head coach Tom Herman away from Houston. The only Texas facilities the Cougars are using is the practice bubble at Denius Fields, which is also being used by the band, Texas soccer, and, of course, the Longhorn football team. Bassity says that UT has been very accommodating.

As far as damage to UH facilities, Bassity doesn’t know much yet. The Carl Lewis Auditorium, a 200-capacity team meeting room had some flooding, he had heard, but its unclear if the Cougars will have to practice elsewhere as the September 2 season opener against UTSA approaches.

“We don’t know too much right now,” Bassity says. “Because of the severity of the flooding, it’s been more focused on rescue efforts instead of recovery.”

As for Applewhite, the former Texas quarterback and offensive coordinator, Herman says he’s handling it in stride.

“We talk a couple times a day through all of this,” Herman said, at a media availability on Monday afternoon. “For a guy that’s never been a head coach, has only been a head coach for eight, nine months, to be thrown this big of a curveball in your first season would be tough for anyone. He’s handling it as good as possible.”

For now, there is no timetable for Applewhite and the team to return to campus, and the Cougars will practice on Tuesday in Austin. Most importantly, the Houston Chronicle reports, all Cougar players’ family members are safe and accounted for. Classes are cancelled at UH through Wednesday. We will update this post as news becomes available.

Update (8/29/17, 4:09 p.m.): The University of Houston has canceled all athletic events this weekend, including the football opener against UTSA. The schools will look to reschedule the meeting later in the season. In a press release, UH athletics director Hunter Yurachek said:

“The epic disaster that continues to unfold in and around the City of Houston has made it evident that our athletic events are not a priority at this time,” said Houston Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek. “Our focus during the coming days will be on assisting the City of Houston and University of Houston communities in recovery efforts and allowing our coaches, staff and student-athletes to devote the necessary time to ensuring the safety and security of their family, friends and loved ones. We are very appreciative of the UH fan base and supporters, UTSA and their Director of Athletics Lynn Hickey along with our counterparts at LSU, Mississippi State, George Mason and Houston Baptist, in supporting this decision.”

DKR photo via Flickr.

 

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