…the parties involved are considering for the game.
Houston’s NRG Stadium, the game’s scheduled venue, is assuredly not available. With Hurricane Harvey already turning most of the Space City into a flooded mess with impassable roads, ruined residences and overflowing hotels, and with the stadium already serving as a staging area for emergency personnel, there isn’t a conceivable way either the facility or the city would be appropriate to host the game. So Sunday, officials from LSU and BYU, as well as the event organizers and ESPN, gathered to make plans for an alternative venue.
Hayride sources tell us the most likely of those will be the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The facility is available, as it doesn’t have anything booked for Saturday (the Saints host the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night). New Orleans does have the Southern Decadence Festival scheduled for the Labor Day weekend, which would make for a very interesting mix of visitors to the city (Mormon football fans on one end of the spectrum, and flamingly gay drag queens on the other). Hotels are not fully booked during the weekend, though, so virtually all the conditions necessary to play the game could be met. Moreover, the Superdome staff has been aggressively courting the game.
But as Harvey churns back out into the Gulf over the next few days in preparation for a full frontal attack on Houston, South Louisiana is likely to catch a sizable deluge of rain from the storm’s outer bands. New Orleans’ forecast calls for between 6.5 and 8 inches of rain by next Sunday, with most of the rest of the southeastern part of the state getting between 4-8 inches. Barring floods, the Superdome is a winner since it offers an indoor, rain-proof venue.
That amount of rain over the course of a week is not alarming, but for the recent poor performance of the city’s drainage system during the Aug. 5 floods there and the disturbing revelations about its mismanagement since then. New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu is predicting his Sewerage and Water Board pumps can handle Harvey’s projected rainfall “unless we get caught up in one of those rain bands.”
Unless Harvey is projected to move more in an easterly direction when the forecast is revisited on Monday, New Orleans is going to get the game.
But other options are also being considered. They are:
Tiger Stadium: From the standpoint of how to get the largest possible crowd for the game, the 102,000-seat Death Valley would be a clear winner. But there are reasons not to choose Baton Rouge as a venue. First, the stadium has been undergoing some off-season work which would have to be accelerated by a week – something which can be done. Second, BYU didn’t count on playing a road game against LSU – though they could hardly have expected Houston to be a truly neutral site for it. If the game were to be played in Tiger Stadium it would likely require LSU AD Joe Alleva to agree to a return game in Provo at some point in the future. And third, ESPN, which is putting the game on in the first place for all intents and purposes, has said they want it at a neutral site. But LSU has experience putting on a game on short notice; Tiger Stadium hosted a South Carolina home game when Columbia was flooded in 2015, and if the gate were to be split between the two teams as a neutral site BYU could get a nice payday for their trouble.
Lavell Edwards Stadium: BYU’s on-campus venue isn’t a neutral site, either, and it wouldn’t seem like a smart idea to move the game there given that BYU only sold 8,000 or so tickets while LSU sold some 28,000 – that’s an awful lot of refunds to people who aren’t going to be able to make so long a trip on such short notice. Still, if LSU was able to wrangle a return game in Tiger Stadium out of the negotiations a move to Provo isn’t all that bad an idea. From a competitive standpoint LSU shouldn’t be too upset with a game there; BYU didn’t look remotely ready for the Tigers Saturday when struggling to a 20-6 win over FCS opponent Portland State, who won only three games last year. Provo does have the advantage of not being affected by Harvey; it’s almost certainly not going to be raining there.
AT&T Stadium: Moving the game to the Dallas-Fort Worth area would make sense as well, as it’s indoors and Dallas isn’t going to flood. But there’s a wrinkle; namely AT&T Stadium is hosting the Florida-Michigan game on Saturday, so playing there would mean not just moving the game geographically but the game time as well. And since BYU can’t play on Sunday for religious reasons that would mean playing on Monday. That would mean ESPN has to fill its 8:00 cst time slot, plus make room on Monday for LSU-BYU. Lots of moving parts there.
The Alamodome: San Antonio might seem a bit close to the storm for comfort, but to date Harvey hasn’t inflicted major damage on the city and isn’t likely to do so at this point. Flights to Houston can be rebooked for San Antonio fairly easily, and hotel availability is apparently not a problem. The downside to San Antonio at this point comes from whether it’s being used as a staging area for relief efforts by next weekend and will the game get in the way of that (unlikely) and the fact that the University of Texas at San Antonio is scheduled to play Houston at the Alamodome on Saturday at 6 p.m. To fit the LSU-BYU game in its currently scheduled time slot, the UTSA-Houston game would have to be moved up to an earlier kickoff – or LSU and BYU would have to play on Monday, and if the game is going to happen on Monday LSU and BYU would both probably prefer JerryWorld to the Alamodome; it’s a nicer venue in a bigger city with more alumni of both schools who could snap up tickets and increase the gate.
Again, in all likelihood the Superdome will get this game. New Orleans offers the least amount of disruption for the maximum number of people. But regardless of where it’s played, LSU fans can at least take heart that they’ve got a negotiating partner in BYU who isn’t a bad-faith negotiator like the University of Florida was last year.