FAU still reeling from Hurricane Wilma

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 3, 2005

The Florida Atlantic Owls had scheduled an open date before this week's visit to Troy.

But don't think after the rest that things are back to normal in Boca Raton, Fla.

The university - and the entire south Florida region - have been reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.

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The school shut down for more than a week. Classes reopened Wednesday. Lockhart Stadium sustained enough damage that the Owls will either have to change the date or location of their scheduled Nov. 12 home game against North Texas.

Three light poles were knocked down and there was severe damage to the stadium’s scoreboards and the press box.

A structural engineer is going over the stadium this week.

The game may be delayed until Dec. 3, extending the regular season by a week.

FAU Athletic Director Craig Angelos told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post that an option is to play at another facility, but as of Tuesday afternoon he had not made any inquiries as to what stadiums would be available.

The most logical choice would be a move to Dolphins Stadium, where FAU played Oklahoma State this season.

Wilma struck Oct. 24, forcing several sports to leave the area.

The FAU gymnasium sustained roof damage and power failure. The men's basketball team relocated to Orlando, where coach Matt Doherty and his team practiced last week. The women's team practiced in Daytona Beach.

Most of FAU's athletic teams were on the road the days following the hurricane.

The softball facility had batting cages destroyed, the roof to one of the dugouts blew off and the press box floor collapsed.

The baseball field's press box was also badly damaged.

As for football, last week was supposed to be a light week for the Owls, since they didn't have a game Saturday. Two days after the storm, 11 players reported to the Oxley Athletic Center for practice.

Instead, coach Howard Schnellenberger told his players to go home and not report back until Sunday.

&uot;The ones that we could find, we got them out there,&uot; FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said in an interview with Marcus Nelson of the Palm Beach Post. &uot;Sometimes a man needs a break, and maybe this will do them some good.&uot;

Players seemed happy to return to being football players.

&uot;Everybody got a chance to get their minds away from football,&uot; said receiver Casey McGahee, who left Boca Raton before the storm hit and rode it out in his Sebring. &uot;Now it’s time to get to work. When I came back to practice, all I saw were smiles on peoples faces because they were excited to get back.&uot;

On Sunday more than 40 players and the coaching staff returned to the practice field as FAU begins preparation for Saturday’s game at Troy.

The team held a light workout in shorts, with a handful of starters on offense and defense. There were just enough players on each side to conduct 7-on-7 drills.

&uot;Everybody had things they had to handle, so they got that done, and most of them seemed pretty anxious to get started &uot; said assistant head coach Kurt Van Valkenburgh.

Schnellenberger said the staff has been able to reach everyone on the team and everyone made it through the storm safely, although some members left town after the storm canceled practice.

The team had considered practicing this week in Montgomery or Orlando, but opted to stay put.

The players were thankful they didn't have to play last week. Football couldn't have been a priority.

Florida Atlantic kicker Daniel Kennard, a New Jersey native, told the Post that riding out Hurricane Wilma at his apartment a few miles from campus was an experience he will never forget.

&uot;I was on my porch the whole time watching stuff blow away,&uot; said Kennard, just one of a few players on the FAU roster who are not from Florida. &uot;Everybody else there was sleeping, and I just couldn’t believe what I saw.&uot;