Aug. 29, 2005
JACKSON, Miss. -- Instead of focusing on preparations for their season-opening contest versus Southern Miss, scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 4 in Hattiesburg, and the first day of classes, the Tulane Green Wave football team spent its first full day in its evacuation home of Jackson, Miss., Monday, awaiting news on the situation in New Orleans and taking advantage of the hospitality offered by Jackson State University.
At approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday, members of the Tulane women's soccer and football teams, their coaches and other athletics department personnel, boarded buses and vans for Jackson, Miss. where arrangements had been made by Tulane University officials for both teams, as well as nearly 400 other students and staff from Tulane, to wait out Hurricane Katrina in safety.
The Green Wave caravan arrived in Jackson, usually a three-hour trip, nearly 10 hours later, at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Later that evening, the Tulane players were able to shake off the travel fatigue with a workout on the field turf at Millsaps College.
On Monday morning, Hurricane Katrina made landfall perilously close to the center of New Orleans, even ripping holes in the roof of Tulane's home stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, which was set up as a temporary "shelter of last resort" for people unable to observe the mandatory evacuation order. Meanwhile, even as power went out in Jackson as Katrina passed through, the Green Wave went through a lively indoor workout in the Wave's makeshift home in the T.B. Ellis Gymnasium on the Jackson State campus.
In addition to the workout, Tulane student-athletes passed the time playing basketball, tossing the football, playing cards, doing puzzles and reading. Classes had been scheduled to start Wednesday, August 31, but will not begin before Wednesday, Sept. 7 according to Tulane University officials. Mattresses and air mattresses were set up on the gym floor as makeshift beds. After eating breakfast in the Jackson State dining hall, box lunches were provided, while 200 pizzas were consumed for dinner.
With food, a place to sleep and a place to practice provided, the main concern Monday was the situation back in New Orleans and the security of all.
"In a situation like this, safety is our first concern," said Tulane women's soccer coach Betsy Anderson. "But everything has gone smoothly here in Jackson. We're continuing to train and prepare for this weekend's tournament at UAB. Throughout the preseason, we've focused on team bonding and team chemistry, but nothing we have done matches this experience."
"Our kids have great character," said Tulane football coach Chris Scelfo. "They have responded well to adversity in the past and have come together again through this situation. But New Orleans is their home. They have a lot on their minds with many of their families being from the area. It's been stressful for the kids, but we're all together, we're safe and we're relying on each other."
Green Wave Athletics Director Rick Dickson, who accompanied the teams as well as the 400 other Tulane students, to Jackson, echoed his coaches' sentiments and added that he and Southern Miss Athletic Director Richard Giannini and Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky were scheduled to talk Tuesday as the Hattiesburg area was also hard-hit by Katrina Monday.
"Clearly, safety is the primary concern, but we've also looked to keep the two teams that are here trained and focused on their seasons," Dickson said. "Everyone has responded very well and kept focused, but at the same time have recognized the significance and severity of the situation."
The Green Wave football team saw its game week preparations interrupted for the third time in the last four years due to the possibility of severe weather. In 2002, Hurricane Isidore threatened the Gulf Coast during the week of the Tulane-Texas game in the Superdome, forcing postponement of practice and a night in the Reily Center, Tulane's on-campus student recreation center.
Last year, the Green Wave's September game versus Louisville was postponed when much of the New Orleans metropolitan area was evacuated due to Hurricane Ivan. The game was rescheduled for the end of the season.
Even as far back as its perfect season of 1998, Tulane has been readjusting its football practice schedule to accommodate the weather. That year, Hurricane Georges bore down on the coast during the Tulane-Navy game in the Superdome, and the team was sent home following the game, not returning to campus until Tuesday prior to the Tulane-Southern Miss game. Ironically, the Golden Eagles are the Wave's scheduled opponent this weekend.
"At this point in time, thinking about the game is secondary," Scelfo said. "We don't know what tomorrow will bring. We need to get an assessment of the damage and the situation in New Orleans and in Hattiesburg. We'll talk to Southern Miss and the conference office and do what we need to do and what's best for our student-athletes and for our communities."
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