HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Cougars could have played their football game at Texas-San Antonio on Saturday.
Instead they chose to postpone it, deciding there were things much more important than football this week with Houston besieged by catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Harvey.
“We felt like it wasn’t the right thing to do in terms of where our city is,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said. “Sports are important and sports are fun and its entertainment, but with casualties in our city, and the state of mind of our players and our players’ families, it’s not the right thing to do, to play a game.”
Applewhite spoke in Austin where the Cougars have been practicing since evacuating there ahead of the storm on Friday. He said football is secondary right now and they’ll figure out how to make the game up when conditions improve.
“Houston is across our chest for a reason,” he said. “It’s our city, a lot of people on our team from our city and we need to help not only our immediate family … but go back and give to a city who has given a lot to us and concentrate our efforts there. We’ll get to our season.”
Officials said they will explore options for rescheduling the game against UTSA. Houston has an off date on Nov. 11.
The Cougars will not compete in any sports this weekend with events in cross country, volleyball and soccer also being canceled.
Many of the Cougar football players are from the area and have been nervously getting updates on friends and loved ones from television broadcasts and social media.
“This is bigger than football,” senior running back Dillon Birden, who is from the Houston suburb of Cypress. “We’re ready to get back to our city and help our city.”
The storm has also forced the Houston Dash to play their scheduled home game against the Seattle Reign FC on Sunday at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. Tickets to that game are $20 with all proceeds going to the American Red Cross.
The changes are the latest to hit Houston sports teams. The Astros were forced to play their series against the Texas Rangers at the home of the Tampa Bay Rays while the Texans are playing their “home” preseason game on the road against the Dallas Cowboys instead.
The Rice football team hasn’t been home in days, holed up in Fort Worth on the TCU campus after a game in Sydney, Australia, over the weekend.
“Basically it’s a day-to-day plan,” Rice coach David Bailiff said Tuesday. “We meet every morning, and we meet every evening just to make sure we’re ensuring, first their human needs. This right now is so not about football. It’s about taking care of people and that’s what I just told the team, too.”
Bailiff isn’t sure when he and his team will be able to get back home.
“We all want to be back in Houston,” he said. “We just can’t get there.”
Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets and owner Leslie Alexander upped their donation to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts to $10 million. Alexander pledged $4 million to Houston mayor Sylvester Turner’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund on Monday before announcing that he’d donate $10 million to help flood victims.
Other donations from teams and athletes include:
___ Astros owner Jim Crane and the Astros’ foundation pledged $4 million.
___ The proceeds from Houston’s preseason game against the Cowboys will be donated to the United Way of Greater Houston Relief Fund.
___ Major League Baseball joined with the players association to donate $1 million to the Red Cross and relief organizations chosen by the players.
___ On Tuesday the Astros announced that all ticket, concession and parking fees from their series against the Rangers will be donated to relief efforts.
___ The Rangers and their ownership and foundation pledged $1 million to the cause.
___ The Texans and owner Bob McNair donated $1 million to the United Way of Greater Houston Flood Relief Fund. The NFL Foundation said it would match the $1 million donation, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family pledged to match all funds donated to the American Red Cross in support of Harvey flood relief up to $1 million.
___ The NBA joined with the players association to give $1 million to charities helping in the area.
___ Texans star J.J. Watt started a fundraising page online that has raised more than $3.65 million since its inception on Sunday. The fund was given a boost by a $1 million donation from Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk. Watt’s original goal was to raise $500,000, but he’s now aiming to raise $4 million.
___ Also on Tuesday, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing donated $50,000 to the USO Houston to support first responders helping with relief efforts in the city.
___ Across the country, Angels star Mike Trout pitched in as well, donating $27,000 to the Red Cross and urging teammates and other MLB players to help.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa Walker and AP Sports Writers Jim Vertuno and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.