BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama is being allowed to help athletes left homeless by a massive tornado under what’s commonly called the NCAA’s “Katrina waiver.”
Alabama compliance director Mike Ward said the NCAA granted Alabama status to provide impacted athletes with benefits not normally allowed, though it hasn’t yet received an official waiver.
Athletic department spokesman Doug Walker told The Birmingham News in a story Sunday that a couple of dozen Crimson Tide athletes lost their Tuscaloosa homes. He said most are being helped by friends or have headed home since final exams were canceled.
“But obviously we have a long-term issue,” Walker said. “We’re working toward a long-term solution within the guidelines. The NCAA has been helpful and the SEC has been very helpful.”
By Thursday morning, the Southeastern Conference was talking with the NCAA about the previous day’s tornado, which caused at least 39 deaths within Tuscaloosa’s police jurisdiction.
Alabama received flexibility to help impacted athletes.
“Similar to the catastrophic events of Hurricane Katrina, we have been able to do this without a waiver,” NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said. “We will remain in contact with the school and conference as they continue to assess any potential long-term needs.”
Some athletes who lost homes or electricity are staying with coaches. They can receive clothes and food and plane tickets.
The SEC allowed Alabama’s baseball team to take more than 27 players to the weekend series at Mississippi State, though the extra players couldn’t participate.
Alabama’s share of the NCAA Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund is about $250,000. SEC Associate Commissioner Greg Sankey said basic needs can include replacing laptop computers, printers and textbooks.
Ward emphasizes that it wasn’t just athletes impacted.
“These are real kids with real stories who have been through a tragedy like other people in the community,” Ward said.