September 9, 2017, 1:48 pm
University of Houston officials were granted a special waiver by the NCAA to begin distributing items to victims affected by Hurricane Harvey.
Cougars athletics director Hunter Yurachek told ESPN that NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs Oliver Luck sent him a text message Saturday morning to notify him that the waiver had been granted to get the donated T-shirts and shoes to people, including high school student-athletes.
Yurachek said the Cougars will start distributing the T-shirts and shoes next week.
"The NCAA was very quick in getting us this waiver," Yurachek told ESPN. "There's a rule in place that makes sense, other than when you have 100,000 T-shirts coming in for hurricane victims. The NCAA has granted us a waiver and it's full steam ahead."
Houston men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson started the campaign on Twitter more than a week ago, asking coaches around the country to donate their excess T-shirts and sneakers to help hurricane victims in Texas.
Yurachek estimated that Houston officials have received more than 100,000 T-shirts and tens of thousands of pairs of shoes.
The Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays sent boxes of donations to Houston this week, along with other pro teams, colleges and high schools in all 50 states.
"We've been floored," Yurachek said. "It's been overwhelming. Coach Sampson is in there every day unloading boxes of shoes and folding T-shirts. We're probably getting 200 to 300 boxes of shoes and T-shirts every day.
"Somewhere along the line, this rule makes sense. But nobody thought to put in an exception like a natural disaster. The NCAA gets a bad rap, but the NCAA just enforces the rule that the membership introduces and votes on."
Sampson wanted to start delivering the donations sooner, but NCAA regulations prevented him until the waiver was granted. The university risked punishment if they were found to have delivered the supplies to recruits.
"They don't want us sending all this nice gear to the top recruit in Houston," Lauren Dubois, senior associate athletic director for the university, told KHOU-TV. "But, obviously that is not our intention at all."
Houston-area athletes have done their part to aid in the Harvey relief efforts, led by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, who has raised more than $30 million for victims of the storm that caused massive flooding.