The Superdome must be secured!
Donald Trump announced yesterday he would attend the College Football Playoff championship game in New Orleans.
Security was already going to be problematic with Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and nearly all 144 members of the Louisiana Legislature making their way down Interstate 10 from the state capitol, where Edwards, other elected officials and legislators will be inaugurated that day.
Adding a visit by POTUS is going to exacerbate the problem exponentially.
Security for the game will be as tight as it was for the two Super Bowls in the Superdome since the September 11 attacks. The Secret Service will take the lead from the Louisiana State Police and New Orleans Police Department for security, and searches will be much longer and more thorough.
The Superdome would be better off asking the Transportation Security Administration to get full body scanners and place them at each of the four main entrances.
I bring this up because 16 years ago tonight, the Sugar Bowl matched LSU and Oklahoma for the BCS national championship. Nearly 80,000 crammed into the Superdome, which was–and still is–a record for a football game in the facility. The record for all events is 87,500 for a 1981 concert by The Rolling Stones, although an estimated 95,000 attended a 1987 youth rally with Pope John Paul II.
Please forgive me as I go off the trail to tell another story about John Paul’s only visit to the Crescent City.
The pontiff hosted an outdoor mass behind the left field fence of the University of New Orleans’ baseball stadium a few hours after the youth rally. It was not the best idea. It poured before the mass, which proved to be the lesser of two meteorological evils for New Orleans in September (at least when there’s not a hurricane bearing down on the Bayou State). Better wet from rain than dripping with sweat.
If the Archdiocese of New Orleans was smart, it would have held the mass on Sunday morning in the Superdome and asked the Saints to play on the road in week one of the 1987 season. Sure, fewer people would have been able to attend, but it would have been much more comfortable for all. John Paul was frail after he was shot in May 1981 in St. Peter’s Square, but had not yet displayed symptoms of the Parkinson’s which would claim him in 2005. He made it through the nearly two-hour service, but Archbishop Philip Hannan breathed a lot easier when the pontiff got into an air-conditioned limousine after the service.
Now, back to LSU and Oklahoma playing for half the 2003 college football national championship.
I say half the national championship, because the media voting in the Associated Press poll had Southern California (DO NOT EVER use Southern Cal) atop its poll following the regular season, and the Trojans figured to stay there after hammering Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl three days prior. The coaches poll was contractually obligated to name the winner of the designated BCS championship game its champion.
Oklahoma stayed No. 1 in the final BCS standings despite a disgustingly ugly 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, the Wildcats’ first conference championship since 1934. LSU moved into the No. 2 spot following a 34-13 victory over Georgia in the SEC championship game.
Two weeks prior to the Sugar Bowl, the Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert threat from “Elevated” (Yellow) to “High” (Orange). Since September 11, 2001, DHS devised a terrorism threat chart with five color-coded levels. The highest was “Extreme” (Red), followed by High, Elevated, “Guarded” (Blue) and “Low” (Green).
For the Sugar Bowl, DHS, LSP and NOPD ordered nearly all of the parking lots attached to the Superdome closed. Only the garage at the southwest corner of the stadium would be opened, and very few permits would be issued.
I was one of the fortunate few. I assisted the media relations staff in the week leading up to the game, and I would be in the press box on game night researching information for the media to use in their stories. The media from out of town had a shuttle running from their designated hotel to the Superdome, so they did not receive parking passes. Some media were staying at the Hyatt Regency attached to the east entrance of the stadium, so all they had to do was walk.
When I arrived at the Superdome, I got out of my car to allow a search of all areas, including the trunk. I was driving the Oldsmobile 88 which I totaled running into a deer in Kansas in October 2005.
I made sure to only take what was essential to the game to make the search easier. I took it in stride. At least my car wasn’t being searched for drugs or other contraband!
The Bayou Bengals defeated the Sooners 21-14, giving LSU its first national championship since 1958. Nick Saban celebrated for all of six minutes, 13 seconds, give or take. There was no Gatorade shower for Saban, which was a good thing for LSU players, given Saban’s anger over his dousing by Alabama players six years later when the Crimson Tide defeated Texas for the first of five titles won by Saban in Tuscaloosa.
Security was a breeze for the 2005 Sugar Bowl, where Auburn completed a 13-0 season by defeating Virginia Tech, but had to settle for No. 2 behind USC.
The 2005 Sugar Bowl marked the last time I have set foot in the Superdome. What I wouldn’t give to set foot in there one more time.
I’m into my last day in Kansas City. Tomorrow morning its back to humdrum Russell. All good things must end.
Posted on 2020-01-04, in College Football, History, LSU Fighting TIgers, New Orleans and tagged 1987 New Orleans papal visit, 2004 Sugar Bowl, Department of Homeland Security, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Oklahoma Sooners, Pope John Paul II. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.