William Carey's Clinton Gymnasium likely to become a memory

William Carey's Clinton Gymnasium likely to become a memory

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - William Carey University's athletic director DJ Pulley has been on the job for less than six months, and he's already in the middle of his toughest assignment.

Thankfully, he wasn't caught in the middle of the EF-3 tornado that smacked every building on campus Saturday around 3 a.m. Instead, he was in Sumrall catching up on his favorite television shows.

"I'm kind of a paranoid father and my little boy doesn't take severe weather too seriously so I (wanted to) stay up," Pulley said. "I got on campus around 5:15 and it took me a while to walk around.

"I couldn't believe what I was looking at, and when the sun came up, I was even more stunned at what I was seeing."

The tornado killed four people off campus and caused multiple injuries on campus, including a basketball player who needed 17 stitches and a soccer player who lost multiple fingers after a door slammed shut.

Because of the extensive damage to university buildings, WCU athletic programs have been sidelined for a time to be determined. University officials will meet Monday to decide the next steps.

The basketball teams may have played their final game at Clinton Gymnasium, which has housed more than 50 years of memories, including cheerleader Ashlee Arnau's half-court shot gone viral, as well as milestone wins for basketball coach Steve Knight.

Knight dropped his head in disbelief. Bricks, ceiling tiles and dust littered the usually squeaky-clean floor. Above it, an arena-wide hole that used to be occupied by those bricks.

"This man has been overseeing renovations since he was athletic director and coached countless games in that building," Pulley said. "I don't think we'll ever play another game in that building."

Clinton Gymnasium was first built in 1963 and is currently undergoing renovations to the locker rooms.

Elsewhere on campus, the baseball and softball fields each lost two lightpoles -- which baseball head coach Bobby Halford described as being "snapped off" -- and the soccer field looked more like a construction zone.

"You want to be strong and say that you can handle the situation, but it was emotional," Pulley said. "It was hard to come over and see the campus that we all worked so hard to make it what it is to be destroyed. The Lord has a bigger picture and we'll come back.

"We're going to come back better than ever. It is hurtful, but we'll be back."

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