With First Game Postponed, Houston Cougars Take a Break to Help in Harvey Recovery

With Harvey on its way out, UH athletics try to help.
With Harvey on its way out, UH athletics try to help. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Houston Cougars will not play a football game this weekend. There are things that are just more important. The game that was scheduled, a season-opening tilt for both the Cougars and UTSA that was supposed to be played in San Antonio, has been postponed. The teams will try to make it up at another point this season, but all of that has yet to be determined. What has been determined is that football can wait.

“Just talking with officials from both schools, [it] felt like playing wasn’t the right to do in terms of where our city is,” Cougar head coach Major Applewhite said on Tuesday. “At some point everyone needs to understand what’s really important. Sports are important. Sports are fun and it’s entertaining. But with 19 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 do to play a game.”

With the game on hold, the Cougar football team, stranded in Austin since last Friday, will put their minds and bodies to work on something more than a football game. That something being Houston’s recovery from Tropical Storm Harvey. So on Thursday, from 1 to 5 p.m., the football team will set up at two Austin locations, collecting donations to bring back home to Houston.

For anyone in Austin, the team will have a north staging area at 1212 East Anderson Lane between the Luby’s and Walmart. There will also be a south staging area at the Travis Roofing Supply Building on 5010 Burleson Road. Nine of the FBS schools located in Texas are also sending equipment trucks to those Austin locations to aid in the effort. (The Rice truck is stuck in Houston and the trucks of A&M and UTEP are on the road with their teams). UH football players will be there to assist with loading the trucks, which will then head off in a convoy to Houston on Friday morning.

“But right now our biggest focus is what we talked about [Monday],” Applewhite said. “Houston is across our chest. A lot of people are from our city. We need to help not only our immediate families, but our players and players’ families, but go back and give to a city that’s given a lot to us. Let’s concentrate our effort there. We’ll get to our season. Patience is a virtue and we need to have patience as a young ball club and as a staff.”

The UH football team is not the only athletic program at UH working to help the city. After fielding a stream of calls and texts from fellow coaches throughout the country, men’s basketball coach Kelvin Sampson sent out a tweet that has resulted in high schools and colleges throughout the country sending shirts and sneakers to the UH campus, where the team will make sure they get sent to people in need. And a glance at Sampson’s twitter feed shows that he is being overwhelmed with responses as his colleagues across the nation do their best to help out.

“The spirit that comes out in times of need and times of conflict, you can tell the character of someone in situations like this,” Sampson told Yahoo Sports. “There’s a lot of good people in this profession, and I’m proud of all of them.”

Head baseball coach Todd Whitting followed up on Sampson and sent out a request to high school and college baseball teams throughout the country. It’s really just an easy request, 20 shirts from the team’s school and ten pairs of shoes. And as with Sampson, a glance at the UH baseball twitter page shows the program being overwhelmed with support across the country.

What’s about to happen is not going to be easy. The city recovered from Alicia and from Allison and from Ike. But the city has never really experienced a storm like Harvey. The Cougars are doing everything possible to help, and they’re using the reach of college athletic programs to help make that happen — and in the process showing that while everyone competes in sports, competition is not the most important thing in life.

“We’ve seen a great spirit here in Houston [with people] working together to save people’s lives,” Houston AD Hunter Yurachek told Yahoo Sports. “We’re going to see it to rebuild people’s lives as well.”
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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