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Katrina cancels Aggie game

USU foe, Nicholls State, is in heart of hurricane area

The effects of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana are being felt some 1,900 miles away in Utah, as Utah State's football home season opener set for Saturday with Nicholls State was canceled Tuesday due to the storm.

Also, Cottonwood High's football game to be played against John Curtis High School in Thibodaux, La., was also canceled.

"They (Nicholls State) have had a tough week with the hurricane," Utah State football coach Brent Guy said Monday. "I hope all of them and their families are safe. I know they have a lot of people from that area, so we're real concerned for them and their families."

Nicholls State is located in Thibodaux, La., some 70 miles southwest of New Orleans. Heavy winds and rains that accompanied the storm in the Gulf Coast region on Monday and Tuesday left hundreds of people dead and missing, and many homes without power and drinking water. It is estimated that 80 percent of New Orleans that is below sea level is under water. Many other cities along the coast are also devastated.

"First and foremost, our prayers are with the families and victims of the hurricane. We need to do all we can to support them," Utah State athletic director Randy Spetman said. "We are disappointed to not be playing this Saturday. There is a lot of excitement in the community and we would have like to have had a great game."

The Colonels evacuated campus last week prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

"I am definitely disappointed about not playing, but looking at the situation and understanding what is happening down there right now, you have to feel for them and hope for the best. You hope their families are safe and everything like that," Utah State linebacker Matt Wiser said.

Cottonwood's opponent, John Curtis High, is a private school located in the suburbs of New Orleans, but the game was going to be played in Thibodaux at Nicholls State.

"We're saddened we're unable to go and compete against this quality football team. At the same time this is one of those catastrophic things that can happen," Cottonwood principal Dr. Garett Muse said. "We understand that this is more serious than a football game."

Cottonwood officials attempted to contact the hotels, bus companies and restaurants it was scheduled to work with but were unable to do so.

"We decided it's not in the best interest of the kids to go down there," Cottonwood football coach Tom Jones said. "They're overwhelmed by the enormity of the catastrophe down there."

Instead of hosting Nicholls State, Utah State will open its season at Utah Sept. 10, and after a bye week, the Aggies will host UNLV on Sept. 24. Utah State lost to Utah 48-6 last season in Logan.

Guy, who is in his first season with the Aggies, will try to make it a positive situation for his team.

"You always want to see where your team is, and we will have to wait an extra week for that," he said.

The Aggies will have a week off after opening at Utah to make adjustments and prepare for UNLV, a team the Aggies beat 31-21 last year in Las Vegas.

It's the second time in as many years that Nicholls State has been forced to cancel a game due to inclement weather. The Colonels' Sept. 18, 2004, contest with Texas A&M-Kingsville was also canceled due to the threat of Hurricane Ivan.

This is the first time in 35 years that Utah State has canceled a game. In 1970, one of the Wichita State football team's planes crashed in Colorado, forcing the cancellation.

In September 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Centers in New York City, Utah State rescheduled its game with Fresno State for later in the year.

The game with Nicholls State will not be rescheduled. Both teams have bye weeks during the season, but they don't fall on the same week. Neither team wanted to play in the first week of December.

Nicholls State, a Div. I-AA school, finished 5-5 last year, while the Aggies finished 3-8. The game would have been a good test for both schools. Although the Colonels play in a division lower than Utah State, Guy, in his media press conference Monday, was quick to point out it wasn't going to be an automatic, show-up-and-win type victory.

Individuals who purchased single-game tickets for the contest will have the opportunity to trade their tickets for any other home game on the Utah State schedule this season, with the exception of the Boise State game. Tickets must be exchanged by Sept. 23.

Utah State fans can redeem their Nicholls State tickets for UNLV (Sept. 24), San Jose State (Oct. 8), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 5) or Nevada (Nov. 19).