HOUSTON -- After nearly two weeks away from home, the Rice Owls returned home to Houston on Friday evening following a road trip to Australia and an extended stay out of town because of Hurricane Harvey.
The Owls, who lost to Stanford in the Sydney Cup on Aug. 26, were scheduled to return home on Monday but couldn't because of Harvey, which ravaged the Houston area with catastrophic flooding and record rainfall, shutting down both major airports in the process.
Rice stayed in Fort Worth and headquartered at TCU the last several days, practicing and working out until the team could get back to Houston.
"It's great to be back," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "The work for us is really just beginning. ... we've divided into work crews to go take care of the guys on the team that need help, be it from the parking lot with flooded cars, to apartments, to houses and try to get as much knocked off today as we can.
"Once we helped these guys, then we're going to go help the city of Houston."
Some players and staffers were rudely greeted by the issues Harvey caused as soon as they got off the bus at Rice University. Many team members found water in their cars or evidence that it had been in there. Athletic director Joe Karlgaard and defensive quality control coach Joe Foteh were seen using buckets and dustpans to help director of business strategy Paul Lockhart-Korris scoop water out of his sedan on Friday evening.
Freshman offensive lineman Shea Baker also spent time inspecting his vehicle when he returned.
"I opened the door and a lot of hot air came out and it didn't smell right," Baker said. "You could tell there was water in there."
Several other team members could be seen in the Rice Stadium parking lots with their doors open and hoods popped, inspecting their cars for damages. Bailiff said he can't even return to his home in Missouri City, which is just southwest of Houston. His neighborhood street was flooded.
"I can't get to my house yet, so I'm going to sleep in my office," Bailiff said with a laugh.
Foteh said he knew of at least eight off-campus residences that were affected by the storm, which will impact roughly 20 players. When the players came off the buses Friday, pizza, snacks and drinks were waiting for them to their right and a table full of cleaning supplies was on their left as they entered the team headquarters.
"We've got to make sure that these young men are taken care of," Bailiff said. "Once we have this done, we'll move on to other projects [in the city of Houston]."
The Owls will take the next few days off before returning to football activities Tuesday. They resume their season Sept. 9 at UTEP.