BOCA RATON – The FAU logo is no longer attached to the scoreboard at Howard Schnellenberger Field, some signs have blown away and there is other minor cosmetic damage, but other than that Hurricane Irma didn’t have much of an effect on Florida Atlantic’s football stadium, athletic director Pat Chun said on Wednesday.
“The field is fine,” Chun said. “We are in a position to play a game.”
Chun had been with the team in Wisconsin since Friday, waiting for the clean-up from Irma to allow them to return. The Owls lost to the Badgers 31-14 on Saturday and have practiced at Wisconsin’s facilities each of the past three days.
On Tuesday Chun flew home ahead of the team in order to help prepare the stadium for Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. kickoff against Bethune-Cookman.
He found a campus, which in the immediate aftermath of Irma had been littered with debris, well on its way to being clear.
“We’re grateful that we have the opportunity to play,” Chun said. “We’re grateful our stadium and our campus is in the position to host the game. We know that whatever fans are in town, we’re hopeful they’ll come out and support us.”
On a normal Saturday facing an FCS opponent the Owls wouldn’t have expected a large crowd. On Saturday against Bethune-Cookman, the seats stand to be even less full than normal.
With the campus closed since the middle of last week and classes not being scheduled to resume until Monday, most of the student population left the area.
“There’s obviously a bunch of unknowns other than the fact that we know we’re not going to have lot of students,” Chun said. “We know a lot of our local fans have left the area and may not be back. We’re going to embrace the situation. We’re going to make the most of it.”
FAU didn’t formally announce that the game would be played as scheduled until Tuesday evening, holding off until the Owls were sure that both they and the Wildcats would be able to make it back to Boca Raton in time.
Florida Atlantic’s team is scheduled to return to South Florida Wednesday night. Bethune-Cookman, which defeated Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday, remained in Louisiana until Tuesday. Teams also needed to ensure that hotel space remained available.
“It was just kind of a day-by-day decision,” Chun said. “We got to the point where, alright, as long as both team can get there we can have the game.”
The full FAU athletic schedule picks back up on Friday when the Owls host a two-day volleyball tournament. Men’s soccer will also welcome Old Dominion to Boca Raton on Friday.