Louisiana college, pro teams flee Gustav

8/31/2008 NEW ORLEANS "We've been through it before and we made it," Parenton said, recalling the 2005 season, when Tulane played all its games on the road after Hurricane Katrina flooded most of New Orleans. "We'll be all right."

Across south Louisiana, college and pro teams spent the weekend packing up and leaving their regular training sites for safe havens away from the coast while, in many cases, trying to remain focused on the season ahead.

The New Orleans Saints, who like Tulane spent their entire 2005 regular season outside New Orleans, were in Indianapolis, where they intended to practice until Friday. The Saints tentatively scheduled a Saturday walkthrough back in New Orleans, hoping their Sept. 7 regular-season opener against Tampa Bay still can be played in the Louisiana Superdome.

The New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, canceled their last two home games of the season on Sunday and Monday.

After canceling its game next Thursday at New Mexico State, Nicholls State's football team told players to evacuate and seek refuge with their families as Gustav threatened to unleash catastrophic damage in the low-lying town of Thibodaux, La., nearly 60 miles southwest of New Orleans, where the school's campus sits.

Louisiana-Lafayette and McNeese State football players also were told to ride out the storm with their families and stay in touch with coaches, who would give them instructions on when and where to regroup. McNeese spokesman Louis Bonnette said that if Gustav hits Lake Charles hard, as Rita did in 2005, the football team would join the schools' soccer, tennis, volleyball and cross country teams at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, La.

McNeese's football team has experience with setting up shop on another campus. After Rita left 6 feet of water in Cowboy Stadium, the squad spent several weeks at Southeastern and had some games canceled or rescheduled. Since the storm, Cowboy Stadium has had lights repaired and a new field installed.

The Southeastern Louisiana football team left campus in Hammond on Sunday, bound for Oxford, Miss. University spokesman Matt Sullivan said the team had been invited to use practice fields and the weight room at Ole Miss while preparing for next weekend's game at Mississippi State.

A day after its season-opening victory over Appalachian State, LSU held meetings on its Baton Rouge campus, where head coach Les Miles told players to take Monday off and find a safe place to stay before reporting back for team meetings tentatively scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m.

"We'll kind of wait this thing out, hopefully come through OK and go from there," LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said. "First and foremost, Coach Miles' concern is obviously safety for players, staff and their families."

While hurricane force wind may reach Baton Rouge and knock out municipal electricity, LSU's campus, including football facilities, have backup power. LSU's next scheduled game is at home this Saturday against Troy.

The NBA's Hornets, which spent two seasons in Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina, are supposed to open training camp in about a month. Their training headquarters are on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, deemed one of the more vulnerable spots on Louisiana's eastern coast to flooding when Gustav pushes water from the Gulf of Mexico inland.

Because it's the NBA's offseason, players were out of town and front-office employees left town to be with friends and relatives. However, team spokesman Harold Kaufman, who was with family in Dallas, said majority owner George Shinn had contacted New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to let him know he was ready to help in the storm's aftermath.

Parenton, who is from Thibodaux, said he expected Tulane and other teams that were displaced by Katrina and Rita to handle the aftermath of Gustav with strength and leadership.

In 2005, Tulane spent the entire fall semester taking classes and training in Ruston, finishing 2-9.

Yet Parenton, now a senior, never thought of it as a lost season.

"You hear all the horror stories from that year, but when you think about it, it was really something special we went through," Parenton said. "It wasn't anything we signed up for, but to be a member of that team, I'm proud of that and the way we hung together. I feel like this team can handle the exact same things and be successful."

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