Rice’s football team is coming to TCU while it sorts out its plans to get back home to Houston after a trip to Australia for their season opener.
But for Owls coach David Bailiff, it will be a bit like home.
He is a former TCU assistant under Gary Patterson, who called it a “no-brainer” to extend an offer of the Horned Frogs’ facilities for a few days’ layover, if necessary, while the Owls wait out Hurricane Harvey, a storm being called potentially the worst disaster in Texas history by FEMA.
“Whatever we can do,” Patterson said Monday during the Big 12 coaches conference call. “We’ll work schedules out.”
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The Owls were due to arrive at DFW Airport at 2 p.m. Monday after a flight from Los Angeles. The team played Stanford in Australia on Saturday.
“Whatever we’ve got to do, we’re going to try to do to the best of our abilities,” Patterson said. “We’ll come up with a lot better answers once they hit the ground, get settled, we can start working out how we can get them taken care of, get them to practice, how they practice, all the other things off their mind a little bit. I’m sure it’ll be a process as far as making sure we get everything taken care of.”
TCU opens its season on Saturday against Jackson State, which is due to arrive in Fort Worth on Friday. That gives Rice four days to plan its return to Houston.
“It’ll give them a chance to get here, get their legs under them, see what’s happening in Houston and assess what they need to do moving forward,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte. “While they’re here, we’ll treat them like family and make sure they have all the things necessary at their disposal to make their transition as smooth as possible.”
Del Conte has strong ties to Houston. He is a former Rice athletic director who hired Bailiff to coach the Owls. And he was in Houston during Hurricane Ike in 2008, when the Owls football team faced a similar problem in returning from a game at Vanderbilt.
That year, the team returned to no power in the city for two weeks, Del Conte said.
“This is a lot worse than with Hurricane Ike,” Del Conte said. “It blew through — you didn’t have the days on days of rain. It’s comparable to me to when Rita came through (in 2005). It was a tropical depression and it stayed for days on end. When Ike came through, it created a lot of devastation, we had no power for two weeks, but it was clear. But the same mindset is in place now. Our job obviously is to lend a helping hand. That’s why our country is so great.”
Asked how many players, coaches and staff were in the Rice traveling party, Del Conte said, “We’ll find out when they get here. We’re going to have buses waiting for them and bring them in.”
Del Conte said TCU also invited the University of Houston to use its facilities. The Cougars and coach Major Applewhite opted to head for the University of Texas because it is closer.
“Anyone in the state of Texas is family when in need,” Del Conte said. “You just put down whatever you’re doing right now and do what you can to help.”
TCU has players from Houston-area cities Beaumont, League City, Missouri City, Katy and Manvel. Freshman safety Garrett Wallow of New Orleans is one of nine Louisiana players on the roster.
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“Right now, all of our guys, their families seem to be out of harm’s way,” Patterson said. “We’re asking those questions every day. ... If any need to go home and take care of their families, you let them do that. But you really can’t get in and out. We’re in constant contact with their families.”
Bailiff was a TCU assistant from 2001 to 2003, part of the staff in Patterson’s first full year as head coach in Fort Worth.
In a statement put out by Rice, Bailiff said: “I want to thank the staffs at TCU, SMU, Baylor and UTEP, who all reached out to offer whatever help we needed. There is a strong brotherhood in the coaching world, and it is never more evident than at times like these. While we would love to be coming home today, our first responsibility is to the safety of these players.”
Rice is off this week and returns to action Sept. 9 at UTEP.
The Houston Texans are practicing in Frisco; defensive end J.J. Watt has raised significant funds to aid relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (video by Mac Engel/Star-Telegram).