Harvey Displaces Houston College, Professional Sports Teams.

UH head coach Major Applewhite talks to the media in Austin yesterday.
UH head coach Major Applewhite talks to the media in Austin yesterday. John Royal
The Houston Cougars played a mock game on Thursday night. That night AD Hunter Yuracheck, head coach Major Applewhite and various other members of the UH sports staff had a meeting to figure out what to do about then-Hurricane Harvey. The next day the football team boarded buses to Austin.

The Cougars are supposed to play UTSA in San Antonio on Saturday night. They pretty much figure they’re staying in Austin the rest of the week. Everything else is a real question mark — including when the Cougars will be able to return to Houston.

“We talked to the guys about the situation,” Applewhite told reporters from Austin yesterday. “Obviously, football is important to all of us, but the first thing is Houston. It’s our city. We constantly talk to our guys about representing the city of Houston because it’s across our chests. That’s where our thoughts and prayers are daily.”

And that’s the basic situation not just for the Cougars, but also the Rice Owls, the Houston Astros and the Houston Texans. The teams are away from Houston, away from loved ones, unsure when they’ll be able to get home, trying to focus not just on winning a game, but on finding out about families and friends.

“That’s the thing,” Applewhite said. “Forget football. There’s lives. There’s families. There’s people.”

Applewhite and people with the team have said that they were contacted by many schools in Texas offering to help the Cougars. Mack Rhoades called first, offering the use of Baylor’s facilities for the team. SMU and TCU also followed. But the Cougars accepted UT’s offer because of the relationship between Tom Herman and Applewhite, the availability of a large number of hotel rooms on short notice and the ability to practice in a bubble situation safe from weather conditions.

The Rice Owls, meanwhile, arrived at Fort Worth on Monday. The team, which was playing a football game in Sydney, Australia, when the storm hit, didn’t know until arriving in Los Angeles Monday morning where the next destination was. But the team accepted TCU's offer to use its practice facility, and now the Owls wait out the aftermath of the storm in the same general locale as the Texans, who are using the Cowboys' training facilities in Frisco as the game this week between the Cowboys and the Texans is moved to Arlington.

And then there are the Houston Astros. The Astros finished a homestand with the Washington Nationals on Thursday night, then flew to Los Angeles for a three-game series with the Angels. The Astros were supposed to be off on Monday, and would then start a homestand by hosting the Texas Rangers for three games starting Tuesday.

It was thought that the Astros would instead just play the Rangers in Arlington this week, and then a series between to be played in Arlington in September would be flipped to Houston. The Astros flew to Dallas with this in mind, but the Rangers refused to go along with that plan and declined to swap.

Instead, the Astros are now on the way to Florida, where the series with the Rangers will be played at Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Astros' series with the Mets, which was to follow the Rangers series in Houston, will also be played in Tampa Bay this weekend, costing the Astros two home series.

This shouldn’t be like the situation in 2008 when, the day after Hurricane Ike hit Houston, the Astros were put on a plane and sent to Milwaukee to play an important series against the Chicago Cubs (the games had been scheduled to be played in Houston). The Astros had been in the playoff chase at that point, but never seemed to recover and didn’t make the postseason. This year the Astros are up 13.5 games on the Angels and the Mariners while the Rangers are floundering 15 games back in the A.L. West. And knowing the situation at home, and knowing how they’re forced out of the state by a rival, maybe the Astros will regain the killer instinct the team’s been struggling to find the past several weeks.
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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal