With less than a week before the start of preseason football drills, Northeastern A&M's Golden Norseman football staff has been working almost around the clock to recover from the devastating flood that struck the campus over the July 4th holiday.
“We lost everything,” Golden Norse offensive line coach and equipment coordinator Donnie Bigby said. “We're slowly getting things in from sporting goods vendors, but we still have a long way to go.”
Unlike previous record flooding that reached a height of approximately 24 inches inside the football fieldhouse, this time water reached the rafters of the building.
“We were aware of how high the water had gotten in the fieldhouse in previous flooding situations,” Bigby said. “So, I moved the shoulder pads, helmets, shoes, balls and other equipment up another 5 feet - and the water still got all of it,” Bigby said. “We even lost our sanitaries (sorts, socks and T-shirts).
“We're finding out the hard way how much it takes to start a football program,” Bigby said. “We had to order 120 helmets, 120 sets of shoulder pads, 120 game jerseys, and all of our practice gear, too. Those are just the things that we need to get started.”
Tom Poole, vice president of fiscal affairs for the college, echoed Bigby's sentiments - “About the only thing we had left in our entire athletic program was a coach's whistle.”
“Our main concern is for the health, safety and well-being of all our students,” Poole said. “Because we had Type 3 contaminated water in some classroom buildings and our apartments, we have a bio-hygienist on campus that inspects all the work being done and then tells us when it's safe to go back into an area.
“We had to rent a 2,200-gallon industrial sprayer full of biochemicals to spray down the football practice and Robertson fields, Homa Thomas baseball field, the NEO softball and intramural fields, Poole said. “People don't realize that the water that came up on campus was backwater (which was highly contaminated) and not regular Tar Creek runoff water.
“We had a lot of sewage, heavy metals and other contaminates that we had to deal with,” Poole said. “Not only did we lose everything in the football fieldhouse, but all of our collegiate sports suffered significant damage in the college gymnasium.”
Inside the NEO Fieldhouse, the flood ravaged the gym floor and consumed all of the equipment for volleyball, men's and women's basketball, softball, baseball and the intramural sports programs.
The floodwater also impacted the college swimming pool.
“We had flood insurance and the state regents have told us that they will help,” Poole said. “But we're not going to be back in normal operation for quite some time.”
“Things are beginning to get back into shape,” Golden Norse head football coach Rob Green. “We had more than 30 construction workers coming and going all week and they feel confident that we'll be ready to start next week.”