Cougars practice in Austin despite worries back home
The Cougars practiced at the UT-Austin campus on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday due to disastrous effects of flooding and other damage from Hurricane Harvey. The team arrived in Austin on Friday before the storm made landfall in Rockport.
They practiced Saturday before taking time to watch the Mayweather-McGregor fight together to unwind after a hectic week, said athletics spokesman David Bassity.
Despite the team’s practice in Austin, Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek made the call to cancel Saturday’s game at UTSA. Unless the Cougars are playing in the AAC Championship Game at that time, the match is tentatively rescheduled for Dec. 2.
“I think the officials, the people in charge did a great job in understanding that we can postpone this game, we can play it another day,” Applewhite said. “We can still get our 12th game in.”
The team took the day off Sunday to talk to families and practiced on Monday to allow the players to get a couple of hours of break from the news, Bassity said.
“Our plan at this time is very fluid and we are taking each day at a time,” Bassity said. “We will return to Houston as soon as it is safe for us to return.”
Head coach Major Applewhite personally checked with every player regarding their families, and as of Sunday, all players’ families were located and contacted, Bassity said.
“They gave us a lot of time, to talk to our families you know cause as players we understand that it’s bigger than football,” running back Dillon Birden said. “We don’t just represent the name on the back of our jersey, we represent the front as well. So, my family is doing real good.”
The mood changed after the team ensured all of their families were safe.
“It’s been a changing mood, and it’s kind of changed to the positive,” Bassity said during a conference call between AAC coaches. “Obviously folks were upset they didn’t want to leave the families. Our coaching staff and administration made a promise that we were going to take care of their sons and get them to safety. A lot of families were appreciative of that.”
Some players’ families evacuated because of the potential flooding, including linebacker Matthew Adams.
“My family lives in the Sienna area and they had to get a mandatory evacuation, so right now my family is with Khalil Williams’ parents, so they’re holding up in his parents’ house,” Adams said. “A lot of our players are from the Houston area, so going home right now I don’t think it’s an option until the roads clear up and until the city’s safe. So I think this is the best option for us, and to start looking forward to Arizona and come out here tomorrow ready for practice.”
Part of the flooding even hit their team meeting rooms in the Carl Lewis Auditorium of the Athletics and Alumni center.
“Flooding in the Carl Lewis Auditorium was contained to the very front and lowest part of the room, affecting just the carpet,” Bassity said. “Minimal damage. Did not affect any of the new seats that were recently installed.”
The game scheduled against the UTSA roadrunners in San Antonio has now been postponed until a later date that has yet to be determined, said Applewhite.
As of now, the team has no plans for their next practice and will continue to monitor the situation with the players’ safety as their first priority, Applewhite said.
“Just told the guys to trust us. We’re going to do what’s in their best interests,” Applewhite said. “There are no ulterior motives here. It’s all about human beings and not football games at this point.”