MILES: 'Our kids are very affected by this'

LSU officials met with the media Tuesday afternoon at the LSU Athletic Administration building to discuss the decision to postpone the season opener with North Texas.

It was announced earlier today the game, which was to be played Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m., will be moved to a later date due to the destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


LSU chancellor Sean O'Keefe was the first to step to the podium and he said the decision did not come easily.


"We wanted to show everyone that we were not going to be beat down (by the storm)," O'Keefe said.


In the aftermath of Katrina, LSU decided to proceed as usual. But the university, which was a predetermined triage unit site, was flooded with the injured from New Orleans and the surrounding area. The influx was staggering, O'Keefe said.


"We were prepared to accommodate 300 per hour," O'Keefe added. "But it has been more like 500."


The initial fallout site was to be the Carl Maddox Fieldhouse. However, the Maravich Center, which is currently under renovation, was opened up as well. A makeshift helipad was setup on the infield of the Bernie Moore Track Stadium.


With the unexpected number of casualties arriving from the affected areas, LSU decided it would be best to keep as few people off the LSU campus as possible. Aside from LSU's season opener with North Texas being cancelled, the first day of school has been pushed back to Tuesday, Sept. 6.


"We have cancelled all campus events," O'Keefe said.


As for the LSU campus, the sun shone brightly Tuesday afternoon and aside from the occasional limb here and there looked relatively unscathed by the wrath of Katrina.


"We are fortunate," O'Keefe said.


The LSU campus will be converted into a small city of sorts as victims are transported by ambulance and by air to the triage units set up.


"We are expecting over 400 FEMA (Federal Emergency Medical Assistance) workers to show up soon and set up a small city like area outside the natatorium," O'Keefe said.


LSU senior associate athletic director Dan Radakovich said there are currently talks underway on when to re-schedule the game. He did stress the fact the contract will be honored and that the game will be played in Baton Rouge.


"The Sun Belt Conference offices are in New Orleans so we are getting full cooperation at this time," Radakovich said. "The game will be played in Baton Rouge. There is no question about that. It has not even been considered."


Thus, the season is tentatively set to commence on Sept. 10 when the Tigers host Arizona State from Pac-10 conference.


"When we host Arizona State, we all want to be on the same page and get the season started off on a positive note," said LSU athletic director Skip Bertman.


LSU football coach Les Miles joined the press conference already in progress, but did take time to speak candidly with the media. Having just met with his team, a shaken Miles spoke slow and steadily trying to find words to talk about the events if the last 36 hours.


Miles compared the events in New Orleans to those from 9/11.


"It has that same numbing chill," Miles said. "But this is more personal due to the closeness in the state of Louisiana."


A number of LSU football players are from the greater New Orleans area. Miles said the fact some of those players haven't been able to contact their families have taken a toll on the team. He added a half-dozen or so players have had their families join them in residence halls and apartments on the LSU campus.


"If you would have asked me 24 hours ago, I would have told you our players were handling this pretty good," Miles said. "But as more information comes in, the possible loss of life and so forth, our kids are very affected by all of this."


Miles himself said he was unaware of the magnitude of the devastation.


"I did not know just how bad it was until this morning," Miles said. "I had no grasp of the scope of the loss."


From here, though, Miles said he and his team will move forward.


"We're going to proceed and prepare the team so we will be ready to play when we step between those lines," Miles said. "But we are only between those lines for a short time so we are going to do what we can when we are not (on the field)."


Miles said the players have talked about gathering pillows, blankets, etc. to donate to victims.


The team will practice in shells tomorrow (Wednesday) and go full pads through the weekend.


"Then we will take it from there," Miles said.





-- Radakovich said he is expecting further phone conversations with North Texas officials tomorrow as to the possibility of rescheduling the game between LSU and the Mean Green. One scenario includes LSU hosting North Texas the weekend the Mean Green are scheduled to play ULM. Then at the end of the season – since the Sun Belt does not have a championship game – UNT and the Indians will reschedule for the week of the SEC title game. Radakovich said that was just one of many scenarios.


-- Contrary to rumors circulating, the New Orleans Saints and LSU have not discussed the possibility of the Saints playing their home games in Tiger Stadium. The Baton Rouge Business Report said owner Tom Benson has contacted the Alamo Dome in San Antonio for a possibility interim home site for the NFL franchise.


-- Longtime Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter Finney attended Tuesday's press conference. Dressed in loafers and khaki shorts and looking a bit disheveled, the veteran sports writer said he remained in his French Quarter home throughout the storm and actually emerged in the narrow streets following Katrina to find little water at all. However, following Monday afternoon's levee breach, water flooded the downtown area and reports of 4-6 feet of water are currently strangling the historic district. Finney since evacuated to Baton Rouge. "It is really something being a refugee," Finney said with a half-smile.


-- O'Keefe said he has a brother that lives in the New Orleans area that he has not heard from in some 36 hours. Please remember the O'Keefe family in your prayers.


-- O'Keefe added, on a personal note, it was somewhat of an ironic situation for him to be in south Louisiana at the time of this disaster. The former NASA boss said he was actually at the White House on the morning of the attacks on 9/11.

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