UPDATE (8/28, 5:30 p.m.) -
LSU's season opener against BYU will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans Saturday. Kickoff is at 8:30 p.m.
LSU players were kept in the dark, much like everyone else.
Another hurricane is impacting an LSU football game.
The Tigers' season opener against BYU will "almost certainly" be moved out of Houston because of the historic flooding in Texas created by Hurricane Harvey, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said Sunday through a school spokesman.
Officials are weighing several options for a potential relocation of the Tigers-Cougars game, including playing it in LSU's Tiger Stadium or in the Superdome, multiple sources confirmed to The Advocate. A move seems more than likely, something that Alleva confirmed in his statement.
"Almost certainly it will not be played in Houston. He has not been told that officially, but he is almost certain the game will not be able to be played in Houston on Saturday," Bill Franques, an athletic department spokesman, said Sunday night, citing Alleva.
"It most certainly will be moved to another venue. What venue that will be, he wasn’t able to say yet. He knows game officials have been in contact with several different venues and that a decision will be made as soon as possible, naturally as early in the week as possible so that the teams, management officials and everyone, including ESPN, can be prepared for wherever the game may be played."
Franques, speaking during a weekly LSU football radio program, said game officials are "considering five different venues" for relocation.
NRG Park, the area in which NRG Stadium resides, is scheduled to be used as an emergency operations center, and the city's two major airports have closed. The Houston area has already received as much as 2 feet of rain in some places, with as many as 50 inches expected over the next few days.
Officials from each party involved — LSU, BYU, AdvoCare Texas Kickoff and ESPN — continue to discuss several options, aside from playing a game Sunday. BYU does not allow its athletic teams to play Sundays, under university policy in accordance with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
All sides involved are adamant about playing a game Saturday, and those involved in the discussions say they would be surprised if the game is completely canceled. A decision, however, is not expected Sunday evening, officials say.
SBNation on Sunday morning reported first reported that officials were potentially planning to move the game.
The New Orleans Superdome has reached out to NRG Stadium officials to notify them that the Dome is available, said Doug Thornton, executive vice president for stadiums and arenas of SMG. The Superdome and NRG Stadium are managed by SMG, a Philadelphia-based arena-management company.
"Obviously their preference is to play the game in Houston," Thornton said in a statement, "but we wanted them to know that New Orleans is an option if alternatives need to be considered."
The Saints host a preseason game Thursday, but the Superdome could be ready within 48 hours, Dome general manager Alan Freeman told The Advocate. Dome officials, however, would need advance notification, mostly because of staffing. More than 3,000 staffers work a typical game at the Superdome, Freeman said.
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"We’d welcome them or anything else we could do to help," Freeman said. "We could do it and are prepared to do it."
Officials would need to know if they were hosting a game no later than Tuesday, Freeman said. LSU has not played in the Dome during the regular season since beating Tulane 34-9 in 2007.
"The challenge is getting our staff scheduled to work. We can flip the building pretty fast," he said. "We wouldn’t be able to do anything Friday, but Saturday, as far as clearing the building and painting the turf, we can do it."
Freeman does not expect a decision Sunday from game officials, he said.
An LSU spokesman said Sunday that the school continues to monitor the storm and that it hopes to have more information by Monday afternoon. AdvoCare Texas Kickoff officials did not immediately respond to multiple messages for comment.
NRG Stadium is not flooded and it did not sustain wind damage from the hurricane, Thornton said, but surrounding streets are underwater. The main challenge to hosting a game amid such an event is staffing, Thornton said. Medical and security staff, for example, are inundated helping flood victims.
BYU-LSU isn't the only game scheduled at NRG Stadium next week. The Houston Texans are set to host the Cowboys on Thursday. A decision on that game could foretell a decision on Saturday's game. The Texans have already made the decision to hold practices this coming week in Frisco, Texas, according to NFL Network.
Dallas has offered to host the Texans-Cowboys game Thursday at AT&T Stadium. AT&T Stadium on Saturday is set to host a season-opening game between Michigan and Florida, potentially ruling out a move for BYU-LSU to use that venue.
ESPN has strong input in any decision regarding the LSU-BYU game. ESPN has ownership rights to the affair. The network is in its fifth year of an eight-year agreement with Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, a marketing company affiliated with the Houston Texans that hosts the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff.
ESPN should use “reasonable efforts” to reschedule the game if it is canceled due to extreme weather, according to the game contract between the network and LSU. The network is contractually obligated to pay LSU $4 million for playing in the game. The payment is to be made within 30 days after the game, the contract says.
The network and school are not liable, for any reason, if the game is canceled because of weather, the contract reads. BYU and LSU do not share an open date.
"LSU is not in control of this game. It is not an LSU home game," Alleva said through Franques. "This game is organized by NRG in Houston and by ESPN. Ultimately, it’s up to NRG and ESPN, the organizers of the game, to decide where the game will be played if the game is moved."
At least two fatalities have been attributed to the flood in the Houston area, and at least 2,000 people have been rescued since Hurricane Harvey smashed into the Texas coast late Friday night. It is unprecedented flooding in the nation's fourth-largest city. CBS predicts Houston will get as much rain from the system as the city normally receives in a full year, about 50 inches.
NRG Park has received about 16 inches of rain in a 22-hour period, according to to the Harrison County Flood Warning System. On Sunday morning, emergency officials were struggling to reach the NRG Stadium area to stage it for an operations center, Ed Emmett, a Texas county judge, said during a news conference aired by The Weather Channel on Sunday.
Several stretches of interstate in and surrounding Houston are underwater, and Hobby and Bush airports are closed.
As of earlier this week, LSU had sold 23,000 of its 25,000 allotted tickets for Saturday's game, and BYU had sold out its allotment of 9,400.
Harvey is affecting more places than Houston. Its outerbands are slashing much of southwest Louisiana. In fact, McNeese's football team is practicing at Louisiana-Lafayette's facilities Monday, a school official said. The Cowboys had a plan in place to also potentially practice at LSU.
Already in Houston, the flooding has affected area sports teams. The University of Houston moved practices this weekend to the Texas Longhorns’ Austin campus. Sam Houston State postponed an Aug. 27 game against Richmond. Both of Houston’s professional soccer teams canceled games this weekend.
The Houston Texans were forced to change their travel plans following Saturday night's 13-0 loss to the Saints in a preseason game in New Orleans. They planned to fly from New Orleans to Dallas.
ALEXANDRIA — Midway through his run, Shirdetra Chark lost the ability to speak.
This could be the third year in a row for a weather event to impact an LSU football game.
The threat of Hurricane Matthew last October affected the Tigers’ game at Florida, resulting in LSU having just 11 regular-season games for a second consecutive season. Officials, after tense negotiations, agreed to reschedule the game for November and move it to Baton Rouge.
In 2015, LSU’s season opener against McNeese State was canceled just minutes into the affair because of lightning. Also in 2015, the game at South Carolina was moved to Baton Rouge because of flooding there.
Several LSU football players' families could be affected by the flooding. At least seven players are from the Houston area, including outside linebacker Corey Thompson, edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson, tackles Austin Deculus and Toby Weathersby, safeties Eric Monroe and Grant Delpit, and receiver Mannie Netherly.
Advocate reporters Scott Rabalais and Elizabeth Crisp contributed to this report.
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