BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The third-ranked LSU Tigers will play their opener against North Texas in Tiger Stadium on Saturday night, marking a victory of sorts for the Baton Rouge area after it was struck by tropical weather from Isaac.
University officials said Thursday afternoon's final determination was made after checking the stadium and consulting with area authorities to ensure the community could handle the anticipated crowd of more than 90,000.
The two schools were motivated to do what they could to get the game in this weekend because they did not have any corresponding open dates the rest of the season.
"Our options are limited as far as opportunities to play this game and there was minimal damage to the stadium, so we are proceeding with the season opener on Saturday night," LSU athletics director Joe Alleva said. "We understand there are portions of the state that are still recovering from the storm and there may be some fans that cannot, for various reasons, make it to Tiger Stadium. We wish those people and everyone adversely affected by the storm our best wishes for a full recovery."
The was some water damage to the Tiger Stadium press box as well as the Stadium Club area, but LSU officials described it as "minimal" and said those areas would be ready for the game.
LSU officials also were continuing to monitor the condition of grass parking lots that were soaked by the storm. Any parking lot closures would be announced later, officials said.
Isaac, which was a hurricane for part of Wednesday before being downgraded to a tropical storm, caused widespread tree and power line damage around the state capital. Much of the city and surrounding areas remained without power Thursday, but some neighborhoods never lost power.
LSU's campus had power and was in good enough condition that officials announced the resumption of classes on Friday.
LSU coach Les Miles said he rode out the hurricane at the football operations building, which is surrounded by athletic fields occupying much of the land between Tiger Stadium and the Mississippi River to the west. Miles said his family was there as well, and that his sons, Manny and Ben, wakeboarded through a flooded ditch during calmer moments of the storm while he towed them with a four-wheel utility vehicle.
"We had a blast," Miles said.
The Tigers returned to practice Thursday. Many of them had taken shelter from the storm Wednesday at their own apartments and none of the players reported any problems to the coaching staff, Miles said.
"The concern was more for their families in southern Louisiana, but appears that everybody's OK," Miles said.
The coach said his team is ready to play a game after a month of practice and would have been disappointed to see the game called off after the storm had passed Thursday, leaving Baton Rouge sun drenched once again on Thursday afternoon.
"When you go through the eeriness of the storm — that noise, that sound, that wind, the rain is constant — you get a little cabin fever, if you will," Miles said. "Our guys really looked forward to getting back to practice today and doing something tomorrow and playing on Saturday. I think it kind of eased everybody's minds when the official announcement came that the game was on on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium."
LSU's decision came hours after Tulane decided to keep its opener on schedule as well. The Green Wave opens against Rutgers in Superdome in New Orleans.
However, Isaac did interfere with other college games involving Louisiana teams.
Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech postponed their Thursday night meeting in Shreveport until Oct. 13, when both schools had an open date.
Nicholls State, located in Thibodaux, about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, canceled its weekend trip to Oregon State.
For North Texas and LSU, the uncertainty caused by Isaac was nothing new. The Tigers and Mean Green had to postpone a season opener in 2005 because of Hurricane Katrina.