The Arizona State football team’s first foray into SEC country has been put on hold. Due to large-scale logistical problems associated with Hurricane Katrina, ASU’s game Saturday against fifth-ranked Louisiana State, which was originally scheduled to be played in Baton Rouge, La., will instead be played at Sun Devil Stadium.
Profits from the game will go to hurricane relief efforts. That total could exceed $1,000,000.
When the decision was finally made Monday to move the game to Sun Devil Stadium, ASU officials were left with six days to organize accommodations for the LSU football team and traveling party, sell and distribute more than 70,000 tickets and call in about 1,200 stadium workers from security personnel to concessionaires who expected to have Saturday off.
"Obviously trying to turn this thing around is going to be a monumental task," ASU senior associate athletic director Tom Collins said.
As recently as this weekend, LSU officials maintained that they were prepared to host the game even though parts of the school’s campus, including some athletic facilities, are serving as refuges for evacuees and bases of operations for relief workers.
Collins led a group of ASU officials in a visit to Baton Rouge Sunday to determine whether they would feel comfortable playing there. The most glaring issue was the lack of hotel space. Collins said ASU had reserved 123 rooms in Baton Rouge, but Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco recently ordered that hoteliers could not displace evacuees from their rooms even to honor prior reservations.
"I think it was clear to them by the end of our visit that we had some legitimate concerns," Collins said. "The hotel issue was the first one. . . . I think they clearly understood that we had some questions and reservations about coming down there."
Once the question of where to hold the game was answered — Shreveport’s Independence Stadium and Lafayette’s Cajun Field were also options — other questions sprang up. Not all had been answered by the time the Sun Devils wrapped up practice Monday night.
ASU turned its charter flight over to LSU to get the team to the Valley and the Fiesta Bowl will chip in to help the Tigers with a majority of their lodging and meal expenses once they get on the ground. Whether they arrive Thursday or Friday will not be determined until this morning.
The game Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium will begin at 6:15 p.m., school officials announced Tuesday.
The game originally was slated for 5:45 p.m., but when the site was changed Monday, ASU officials lobbied ESPN, which will televise the game, for a later start time.
LSU, which has yet to play a game after postponing its opener last Saturday against North Texas, will be the designated home team and SEC officials will call the game. The Sun Devils will wear their home maroon jerseys, enter the stadium through the south tunnel and stand on the east sideline as usual.
The 2008 meeting between the teams will be played at Sun Devil Stadium as scheduled. However, discussions have begun to set up a future game between the teams in Baton Rouge. That game will not be coupled with a return date in Tempe.
Despite the questions surrounding the move, there’s reason to be optimistic that the event will go smoothly.
Sun Devil Stadium hosted a 2003 Monday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins on short notice after the NFL decided to move it due to wild fires in southern California. With tickets distributed free of charge, the stadium was filled to capacity without any major incidents.
"We host an awful lot of events each and every year," associate athletic director Mike Chismar said. "In 2003, we had 24 hours’ notice to turn around a Monday night NFL football game and we did that without a hitch. . . . We will get it done and we’re looking forward to it."