When Hurricane Katrina devastated the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Coast last month, the academic and sports programs at universities in the region were wiped out. Schools throughout the United States have opened their doors to the displaced students. And several are making sure sports programs survive as well. Athletes from Tulane University in New Orleans have been welcomed at other schools, which are making sure Tulane's "Green Wave" teams, as they are nicknamed, can continue to compete while their hometown rebuilds.
Tulane University, founded as the Medical College of Louisiana, has been a part of New Orleans since 1834. It is the largest private employer in Orleans Parish and sits along Saint Charles Avenue in a bend of the Mississippi River, as it hairpins through the so-called Crescent City.
Some of the school's noted alumni include New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, former American League baseball President Bobby Brown, and Dave Dixon, who was the main force behind building the Louisiana Superdome, which served as the Green Wave's home field.
But like the rest of New Orleans, Tulane's students, administrators and athletes are now seeking to recover from the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina last month. Tulane President Dr. Scott Cowen cancelled the fall semester because of the storm damage. Dr. Cowen now directs the school from a temporary emergency headquarters in Houston, Texas. Earlier this week, he sought to reassure the Tulane community that the school would bounce back.
"Physically we may be in Texas, but our hearts and minds are in New Orleans as we work feverishly to return to the city. The sooner the better," said Dr. Cowen. "Everyday we become more optimistic that we will be back on campus and in our homes well in advance of our formal spring semester opening. Your patience, understanding, and especially your generosity during these difficult times are what sustain us. We will not let our university, our city or you down, this I promise," he said.
As part of the school's recovery efforts, the Green Wave football team was allowed to enroll at Louisiana Tech University in northern Louisiana. Tulane Sports Information Director, John Sudsbury, said that the team is doing well, even as players and coaches try to recover from the storm.
"Well, you know, now football is a little less prominent but still they are doing great with it. It's been amazing," said Sudsbury. "You know these guys are 18-, 19-, and 20-year-old kids. And they are just ready to go. They are ready to play some football. And Tuesday when they were going to classes it was one of the first times you really saw kids very excited to go to class. They wanted to get that normalcy," he said.
Louisiana Tech University is in Ruston, between Shreveport, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi. The school is just one of several campuses nationwide that have opened their doors to Tulane students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana Tech sports information director Malcolm Butler said that his school is adjusting to having the Tulane team there, and was able to accommodate the 88 players without too much trouble.
"What we have done, we have a dorm here on campus called Carrouthers, which was actually going to be torn down this year. And then after Katrina hit, that following week, we actually opened it up to evacuees who were coming up from down South," said Butler. "And they had to get the air conditioner running in there again and they had to move beds back in. They had to do a lot of different things there to fix it up. But we actually have a couple of floors there where we are housing the Tulane football team," he said.
Tulane's coaching and administrative staff is still looking for their own housing. The Green Wave is scheduled to play its first "home" game in Shreveport, Louisiana this week. But Tulane's John Sudsbury says that the team looks forward to the day when it can return to its former home -- the New Orleans Superdome.
"The Superdome was always such a symbol of good for us. It was our home field and it is devastating to me personally and all these guys to have a building like that all of a sudden it be marred by not just the storm but everything that happened there," Sudsbury said.
The football team is not the only Tulane team that had to seek refuge at other campuses. The men's basketball and women's swimming and diving, volleyball and soccer teams are attending Texas A&M University.
The Green Wave baseball and women's basketball teams are attending Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Conference U.S.A. schools Rice and Southern Methodist -- Tulane's athletic rivals under normal circumstances -- are accepting the Green Wave's tennis and golf teams respectively.
But like many residents of the Crescent City, President Cowen and the rest of the Tulane Community say they are looking forward to the day when they can return to their homes in New Orleans.