Almost one week after Hurricane Floyd roared through eastern North Carolina, the residents of Greenville are still cleaning up from floods that have yet to recede from some areas, and East Carolina University has remained closed.
However, East Carolina's football team has kept operating, although nowhere near Greenville, not without a lot of help -- and under circumstances far from ideal for preparing to play ninth-ranked Miami. The Pirates will do just that Saturday in a home game that has been moved to North Carolina State's Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
The Pirates (3-0) have been stuck in Columbia, S.C., since a 21-3 victory over South Carolina last Saturday. School officials kept the team there until the situation in Greenville, 275 miles to the northeast, was settled.
"When [Athletic Director Mike Hamrick] tells me that the water and power situations are stable [in Greenville], then we'll get on the bus almost immediately and head back," East Carolina Coach Steve Logan said.
Meanwhile, the team has been living at a hotel, using a patchwork of training facilities and trying not to worry too much about the damage it may find when it returns home.
Many of the players came to Columbia with only one change of clothing, since they thought they would return immediately after last Saturday's game.
"We turn our clothes in at night, and [the hotel staff] gives them back to us the next day," quarterback David Garrard said. "We went to the mall the other day to pick up some underwear. A couple of nights we went to the movies, and we're having a bowling tournament tonight. We're just hanging out, trying to keep our sanity."
N.C. State officials are charging East Carolina for Saturday's game-day operating expenses, but not rent on the stadium, an N.C. State spokeswoman said yesterday. South Carolina officials have loaned the Pirates practice space, training equipment and even laundry services while the team has been stranded. The players have used a local Gold's Gym for a weight room.
But rain in Columbia earlier this week forced the Pirates to practice on the artificial turf of South Carolina's indoor facility. They finally practiced on a regulation-size grass field yesterday at a nearby high school.
Plus, only the 65-player travel squad went to Columbia for last week's game, so no scout team is available. But Logan said that "You get a great look [at how Miami may play since East Carolina's top players are pretending to be Miami players]. We went to a bowl game a few years back doing that every day. That's not a bad way to go."
There may not be a bright side to the scene back in Greenville. "The apartments that a lot of them live in are down on the Tar River that runs through Greenville," Logan said. "The water is up, I understand, to the second-story rooms, and so we have a bunch of kids that have lost literally everything. And when we get back to Greenville they don't have a permanent place to stay, no beds, no nothing. That's what we're dealing with now. . . .
"When we're practicing, it's the only time we're not worrying about what's back home. We're doing a lot of worrying once practice is over. . . . We've got a disaster to deal with when we get back, and you just deal with it moment by moment."
Special correspondent Paul Ensslin, in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.