Navy, Rice are forced to retreat from Rita

Mids' game in Houston pushed back to Oct. 22

September 22, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,sun reporter

All of a sudden, Navy finds itself preparing for the start of a new football season.

That was the outgrowth of yesterday's postponement of its scheduled game against Rice on Saturday night because of Hurricane Rita's impending threat to the Houston area.

The decision means the Midshipmen will not play again until Oct. 1 at Duke, three weeks after they lost to Stanford, 41-38, in Annapolis.

Navy and Rice officials agreed on an Oct. 22 makeup date for the postponed game, because both teams are idle that weekend. No starting time has been determined.

"In talking to [Rice athletic director Bobby May], it's possible it could be a direct hit," Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said. "They just didn't want to take any chances because it could be as significant as a Category 4 [hurricane]. The whole place is going to shut down."

The Midshipmen had been eager to return to the field after opening with narrow defeats to Maryland and Stanford.

"It's about like starting all over again," Gladchuk said.

Said Navy coach Paul Johnson: "We would have much rather played. And I'm sure they would have, too. But this is the prudent thing to do. It's something nobody has any control over. You can't worry about things you can't control.

"Anywhere else in the country it would have been a non-issue. Now, it's exactly like getting ready for a bowl game with that much time after your last [regular-season] game. This whole season has been kind of screwy after having a bye that early. All you can do is move on. As coaches, we have to get ready for someone else."

Nearly two weeks of preparation for the Owls will be scrapped. The Navy coaching staff canceled practice yesterday to begin reviewing Duke film.

The storm, which has already impacted parts of South Florida and the Florida Keys, is gaining strength as it streams west across the Gulf of Mexico. It reached Category 5 status yesterday.

Rice also canceled Families Weekend, which was to begin today, and Operation Military Salute, which was to include a flyover before the football game.

Gladchuk said other options were discussed -- playing on Sunday or moving the game to Annapolis -- but that Oct. 22 was the most amenable makeup date "purely by coincidence. ... We were lucky to accommodate them on another date."

Navy respected Rice's decision to postpone the game, Gladchuk said.

"It's a tragedy we certainly can relate to with the Isabel disruption around here and everything that happened with Katrina," he said. "We understood their concern."

The Owls were not the only Texas team to reschedule a game.

The University of Houston postponed its Saturday home game against Southern Mississippi, and Texas A&M has pushed up its game against Texas State.

The Aggies will now host the Bobcats tonight instead of Saturday.

At Rice, an information bulletin released by the school's emergency management system yesterday said "plans continue to be for Rice students to be sheltered in place on campus. Given the campus facilities and preparations, this is judged to be the safest place to be."

Mandatory evacuation is taking place in Galveston County, but not in much of Houston, with a metropolitan population of four million.

Rice will not practice as a team until the threat passes. It's next scheduled game is Oct. 1 at Alabama-Birmingham.

This is the third postponement or cancellation of a Navy game in 42 years.

In 1963, the Army-Navy game was postponed for one week after the assassination of President Kennedy. In 2001, a scheduled game at Northwestern was canceled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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