SAN ANTONIO – The announcement that Saturday’s University of Houston-UTSA football game at the Alamodome has been postponed because of destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey came as no surprise.
Let’s face it: It’s difficult to get excited about something as insignificant – in the overall scheme of things, that is – as a college football game while thousands of our fellow Texans are suffering through one of the worst natural disasters in state history.
Yes, life goes on. And an argument could be made that the Cougars pressing on would have potentially given UH fans in Houston a much-needed morale boost.
But if discretion is the better part of valor, UH and UTSA officials made the right call in scratching Saturday’s game. It was the right thing to do. There will be another day for the Cougars to play football, and give their fans something to cheer about.
UTSA and UH officials will explore rescheduling the game for a date later in the season, according to a UTSA press release.
UH moved its football operations to the University of Texas campus in Austin on Friday, leaving Houston just hours before the deluge that has displaced thousands in the city started.
The Cougars are staying at an Austin hotel, and have practiced at UT’s indoor facility since arriving in the city.
Even when the game was still on, it appeared highly unlikely, given the extensive flooding in Houston, that the Cougars would be able to return home before playing UTSA. At this point, there’s no telling when they’ll be able to go back to Houston.
“We have to take a step back,” first-year UH head coach Major Applewhite said in a story published on the Houston Chronicle’s website. “It’s not about us. It’s about the city. At some point, everyone needs to understand what’s really important.
“Sports are important. Sports are fun and it’s entertaining. With casualties in our city, the country’s largest flood, with our families and the state of mind of our families, our players, and our players’ families, it’s not the right thing to do to play a game.”
The announcement of the postponement came only a few hours after UTSA coach Frank Wilson talked to reporters after Tuesday morning’s practice.
After updating the media on the Roadrunners’ ongoing preparation, Wilson addressed the calamity in Houston and its effect on the UH football team.
“Of course, I have feelings for them, empathy for them,” Wilson said. “I have them for our team as well. We have several players from the Houston area and the neighboring area, about 15, 20 of our players. They had home damage as well. So, I empathize for them because we share in that pain, and the unfortunate situation of this natural disaster. We continue to hold them in our prayers.”
Wilson released a statement through the UTSA sports information after the announcement of the postponement.
“While our team was looking forward to opening the season this weekend, we recognize the devastating impact Hurricane Harvey has had on a large part of Texas, including the University of Houston,” Wilson said. “We share empathy as a host of our players endure this dire situation, as well.
“Our focus is on the safety and well-being of those who have felt the effects of this storm, and we ask that all of Roadrunner Nation do what they can to help our fellow Texans.”
After Monday’s workout, Wilson said he’d had conversations with Applewhite.
“I’ve sent my condolences and he did the same to us as well, and wished us the very best,” Wilson said. “I guess from a coaching standpoint, we both are preparing for the game because we’ve been told nothing differently.”
That changed later Tuesday.
“As families across Southeast and South Central Texas struggle with the catastrophic flooding and impact of the storm, our focus must be on how we all can help,” UTSA president Taylor Eighmy said in the UTSA press release. “In lieu of this weekend’s game, I urge Roadrunners, the San Antonio community and all Texans to support recovery efforts in Houston and across the region, including donating to disaster relief efforts.”
More than 4,200 student enrolled at UTSA come from the counties most heavily affected by Harvey, according to UTSA. The university has put in place programs to support those students, the release said.
“Our heartfelt wishes go out to the Houston family and to Texans everywhere in storm-ravaged areas,” UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey said. “We’re disappointed that we will not be able to play the game this weekend, but right now our focus should be on the well-being of our fellow Texans.”
Wilson, 43, knows all too well the tremendous damage a hurricane can cause. He grew up in New Orleans and was an assistant coach at LSU for six seasons before landing his first head-coaching job at UTSA in January 2016.
“I’ve been in positions where we’ve had to welcome players’ families and take them in,” Wilson said Monday. “I’ve been on the other half at LSU, where we played South Carolina and they had just gone through their deal. You do the humanitarian thing. You do the thing that’s natural to you and that is to be serving, to be conscientious, to have a heart during that time.
“Our sport is unique because it kind of brings us together. Something that seems so gloomy sometimes is the thing that’s needed to make us conscientiousness of what’s going on and more readily available to serve one another, to help.”
The Roadrunners’ next scheduled game is against Baylor on Sept. 9 in Waco. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.