LSU likely to move football game for 3rd time in 3 years

BATON ROUGE — For the third consecutive season, LSU could get an extra home football game — give or take 87 miles east.

The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans has been offered to NRG Stadium officials as a possible contingency site for the Advocare Texas Kickoff game between No. 13 LSU and Brigham Young scheduled for 8:30 p.m Saturday at NRG in Houston, Texas, on ESPN because of the catastrophic rains and floods in the area from Hurricane Harvey's impact over the weekend.

"We have told the officials at NRG Stadium and with the Advocare Kickoff that the Superdome is available in the event that it should become necessary," Superdome director Doug Thornton told the USA Today Network on Sunday. "And they were very appreciative. But it is way too early right now to say it will happen."

NRG Stadium was suffered no structural damage by the storm, Thornton said, but it was placed on lock down as the streets and highways around it in Houston were flooded along with all other major roads. Thornton also oversees the management NRG Stadium along with several other major stadiums around the country.

"We have been in contact with our staff in Houston to help them in any way," Thornton said. "We should know one way or the other by the end of the day Tuesday."

Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge is also a possible contingency site for the game, said LSU deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry, who handles football scheduling for LSU.

"We probably could host it if we had to," Ausberry said. "We know what it's like to get the stadium ready with a quick turnaround."

On Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2015, LSU learned that its game at South Carolina scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 10, would be moved to Tiger Stadium on that day because of historic flooding in the Columbia, South Carolina, area. LSU won, 45-24, in a game that was treated as if it was a home game for the Gamecocks, which received gate receipts.

And again last year, LSU received an extra home game when its originally scheduled game at Florida on Oct. 8 was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew and eventually rescheduled for Tiger Stadium on Nov. 19 because of various re-scheduling conflicts between the two athletic directors. Florida won, 16-10, for the Southeastern Conference East title and now plays LSU in 2018 and in 2019 in Gainesville, Florida, to make up for its lost home game.

"Nothing has been decided as of now," Ausberry said. "There will be a lot of phone calls on Monday."

But it looking more and more like NRG cannot host the LSU-BYU game Saturday, and the schools do not share an upcoming open date.

"Almost certainly, it will not be played in Houston," LSU associate communications director Bill Franques said Sunday night on a weekly LSU radio show after speaking to athletic director Joe Alleva. "It most certainly will be moved to another venue."

Unlike LSU's moved games with South Carolina and Florida the last two years and the LSU-Arizona State game in 2005 that was moved from Tiger Stadium to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, because of Hurricane Katrina's impact, the LSU-BYU game is neither team's home game. It is a neutral site game put together by ESPN mainly and Lone Star Sports & Entertainment of Houston, which operates the Advocare Texas Kickoff.

"This is ESPN's game," Ausberry said. "It's not our game or BYU's game. Over the next 24 hours, we'll know a lot more."

Asked if he would prefer LSU play BYU in Tiger Stadium or the Superdome, Ausberry said, "I don't have a preference."

According to LSU's contract for the game, LSU will receive $4 million from ESPN for playing in the game, including if it is rescheduled to another date or moved to another stadium. The exact amount BYU is contracted to receive has not been made public as it is a private university and not susceptible to public records requests, but it is believed to be in the $2 to $3 million range. Should the game be cancelled after "reasonable efforts" to move or reschedule it, ESPN is not financially liable to LSU or BYU, according to the contract. The two schools do not have a common open date.

LSU has non-home conference games with Chattanooga on Sept. 9, Syracuse on Sept. 23 in a return game and Troy on Sept. 30. BYU's open date is on Sept. 23. The Tigers' open date is on Oct. 28. BYU, 1-0 on the season after a 20-6 home victory Saturday over Portland State in Provo, Utah, is an independent. It hosts San Jose State on Oct. 28.

"Most importantly, our thoughts and concerns are with the people in South Texas," BYU's athletic department said in a statement released by BYU associate athletic director Brett Pyne Sunday. "We are in discussions with all parties involved and continue to monitor the situation." 

Thornton said he does not expect to make any money on the game should it be moved to the Superdome, which hosts a NFL preseason game Thursday night between the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.

"We would want our costs covered if this happens," said Thornton, who said it would take 3,000 people to put on the game, including security, law enforcement, production people. "But we won't profit. It's not about that. We're trying to help out. We know what it's like to be in their situation at NRG Stadium."

The Saints had to move all of their home games from the Superdome in New Orleans to Baton Rouge and San Antonio, Texas, in 2005 as the dome's roof was ripped off by Katrina winds, and the Sugar Bowl that year was moved from the dome to Atlanta, Georgia.

If the Advocare Texas Kickoff becomes a Louisiana Superdome kickoff, it would fall at a good time for New Orleans, which traditionally has slow tourism over the Labor Day weekend. The Superdome has nothing scheduled for this weekend after the Saints and Ravens play Thursday.

"The one good thing for the fans if we host the game is that there are many hotel openings in New Orleans that weekend," Thornton said.

Thornton has been working with Ausberry and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva on scheduling a game in the near future in the Superdome with LSU and a major non-conference opponent over the Labor Day weekend similar to major early season games in Houston, Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta. LSU has not played in the Superdome during the regular season since beating Tulane, 34-9, in 2007.

"We've been trying to get such a game," Thornton said. "And we may in the future."

And he may have one now.

"Yes, but this is not how we would want it, not amid these circumstances," Thornton said. "They're going through a lot in Houston. It's terrible." 

Thornton met with Houston Texans president Jamey Rootes, who is also president of Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, on Saturday as Rootes was in town for the Texans' 13-0 loss to the Saints in the Superdome. They discussed the LSU-BYU game and the Texans preseason game against Dallas this Thursday night, which is also scheduled for NRG Stadium. 

"At the time, he thought they would be OK for both games," Thornton said. "But it looks much worse now. The Texans did not fly back to Houston after the game. They went to Dallas, and they're considering playing that preseason game in the Dallas area instead of Houston."

That would be at AT&T Stadium - home of the Cowboys - in Arlington, Texas. That could also be a possible site for the Advocare Texas Kickoff between LSU and BYU on Saturday night, but at the moment it would have to be the nightcap of a doubleheader. Florida and Michigan are scheduled to play at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the Advocare Classic.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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