While teams in the Southeastern Conference and the college football world are often fierce rivals on the playing field, the response to catastrophic flooding in southeast Louisiana has proven that intercollegiate sports can serve as a unifying force for good off the field.
Unfathomable rainfall totals caused rivers as well as creeks and waterways to rise, leading to widespread flooding in and around much of southeast Louisiana. Waters rose over the weekend and left thousands of residents trapped inside their homes or placed in shelters in many Louisiana communities.
While the damage has been enormous and many southeast Louisiana residents are unable to return to what remains of their homes because of high waters and closed roads, some in the college football community are trying to bring relief to those heavily impacted by the flood.
On Tuesday, the University of South Carolina announced plans to use the Gamecock Football equipment truck to collect items needed in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities. The team collected baby and adult diapers, baby formula, canned goods, unopened socks and underwear and towels and blankets.
University President Harris Pastides told GamecocksOnline.com that when historic floods hit South Carolina in October 2015, LSU was “gracious to assist us in our time of need.” At the time, LSU hosted South Carolina in a game that was originally scheduled for Williams-Brice Stadium but could not be played there because of the flood. LSU donated all net proceeds from the game to South Carolina’s flood relief effort. Notably, a jersey autographed by LSU star running back Leonard Fournette was sold to raise funds for the effort as well.
Elsewhere in the college football world, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette football team has also joined the relief effort. By Tuesday afternoon, a bus load of roughly 100 Ragin’ Cajun football players was bound for Youngsville, another town heavily impacted by the flood. The players did anything they could to help out, from removing carpeting and sheetrock from damaged homes to lifting and moving cars in impacted neighborhoods. Ragin’ Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth told The Advertiser the effort benefitted the community as well as his players.
In Mobile, the University of South Alabama athletics department is collecting water and non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, insect repellant and batteries through Sunday at the Jaguar athletic trailer beside Eddie Stanky Field. The goods will be delivered to Lafayette, La. on Monday, 22 August 2016. Donations can also be made at USA athletic events this weekend.
The United States Sports Academy has also joined the relief effort, collecting donations of goods from faculty and staff to deliver to the University of South Alabama, which will ship the items to aid those impacted by flooding in Louisiana.
This is not the first time college football programs cast aside their on-field rivalries to help others in need, which shows the best of what can come from relationships forged through sport.
By Eric Mann
Eric Mann is the Communications Assistant at the United States Sports Academy.