LSU and Tulane go head-to-head…sadly not on the same field
Camping World Stadium in Orlando and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas are 1,780 kilometers (1,106) miles apart. It will take at least 17 hours driving to get from one to the other.
In less than three hours, two universities whose football stadiums are a mere 132 km (81 miles) apart will be playing simultaneously in bowl games.
Tulane, located in a upper-class residential section of New Orleans, will play Southern California (USC; DON’T call them Southern Cal) in the Cotton Bowl at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, while LSU, nestled along the Mississippi River at the southwest edge of Baton Rouge, will face Purdue in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.
This is the first time LSU and Tulane are playing in bowl games on the same day. Of course, ESPN and ABC would put them on against each other at noon Central.
Tulane is enjoying one of its finest seasons ever. The Wave went to Manhattan (the little one) and defeated eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State, then went on to win the American Athletic Conference championship, defeating Central Florida in a rematch from the regular season won by the Knights.
Last year, Tulane went 2-10 in a season severely disrupted by the August landfall of Hurricane Ida. The Category 4 storm forced the Wave to move its highly anticipated opener vs. Oklahoma from New Orleans to Norman. Tulane then spent several weeks living and practicing in Birmingham, and one home game had to be moved there.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction by firing coach Willie Fritz, athletic director Troy Dannen reiterated his unwavering support for Fritz, and that faith has paid off handsomely.
Strangely, this will not be the first bowl game between Tulane and USC. The Trojans defeated the Wave 21-12 in the Rose Bowl following the 1931 season. A Rose Bowl appearance is one thing Tulane can claim and LSU cannot.
LSU enjoyed a solid first season under Brian Kelly, who surprisingly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons to clean up the mess left in the wake of Ed Orgeron’s unseemly departure. The Bayou Bengals bounced back from an opening loss to Florida State (the Seminoles won 24-23 by blocking an extra point on the game’s final play) and a 40-13 shellacking at home vs. Tennessee to earn a trip to the SEC championship games, with big wins over Ole Miss and Alabama, LSU’s first over the Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge in 12 years.
The Bayou Bengals need a win vs. the Boilermakers to avoid a three-game losing streak. After rising to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff poll, LSU was hammered by Texas A&M in College Station, then overwhelmed by Georgia in the SEC title game. The losses knocked the Bayou Bengals out of trips to the Sugar, Orange or Cotton Bowls and instead to the Citrus Bowl for the fourth time since 2009. Ironically, the last time LSU played in this bowl, it lost 21-17 to Kelly’s Fighting Irish.
Had LSU not lost to A&M, it more than likely would have ended up playing Tulane in Arlington.
Sadly, it will take a bowl game to revive this series, barring a miracle.
The Green Wave and Bayou Bengals used to have a spirited gridiron rivalry. It was played continuously from 1919 and 1994, but sadly, it has been played only six times since, the last in 2009.
As an LSU alum and New Orleans native who attended numerous Tulane games growing up in New Orleans, I am very angry about this. I am especially pissed LSU sees fit to play the lower-level in-state schools–McNeese State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls, Southern and Grambling–but refuses to consider playing Tulane.
It is inexcusable LSU will only play the four Division I FBS schools in the state–Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech–only occasionally, if at all, yet will fork over huge sums of cash to prop up the smaller schools, especially when one is only 132 km to the east and the other is only 80 km to the west.
This past September, LSU played Southern, which is 18 km (11 miles) north on the other side of Baton Rouge. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a notorious LSU booster, and many others praised the meeting of the cross-town rivals on the gridiron.
I thought it was asinine.
I’m not opposed to LSU playing Southern and other smaller in-state schools in baseball and softball. There are more than enough games in those sports to allow room for those games while still being able to schedule larger non-conference opponents.
In basketball, LSU should attempt to schedule one or two per season, but also need to attempt to play higher-caliber foes. Should LSU’s men play Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan State and North Carolina in the same season? No. However, LSU’s non-conference schedules have been laughable to pitiful since Dale Brown’s retirement 26 years ago.
That said, LSU and Southern should not be playing on the same football field. Neither should LSU and Southeastern, LSU and McNeese, LSU and Northwestern St. (a game vs. the Big Ten’s Northwestern would be fine, but there could be no home-and-home due to the Wildcats’ stadium in Evanston being less than half the size of Tiger Stadium, unless it were moved to wherever the Bears are playing), LSU vs. Nicholls and LSU vs. Grambling.
LSU and Tulane should be happening every year, or barring that, at least once every three years.
In 2014, Tulane opened Yulman Stadium, a 30,000-seat facility which occupies largely the same footprint as the legendary Tulane Stadium, which stood from 1926 until its demolition near the end of 1979. The 80,000-seat steel behemoth hosted 41 Sugar Bowls from January 1935 through December 1974, three Super Bowls (IV, VI and IX) and 56 Saints home games.
Tulane moved to Superdome in 1975, and the Green Wave’s crowds, already small by southern standards, fell precipitously, except for games vs. LSU and the occasional matchup with a national power.
The LSU-Tulane game at New Orleans sold out in most years between 1975 and ’87 (the Dome hosted the game in odd-numbered years in that era), but by 1994, the last year of the annual series, less than 33,000 came to Poydras Street to watch LSU, led by lame-duck coach Curley Hallman, defeat the Wave 49-25.
LSU athletic director Joe Dean, a notorious cheapskate, demanded Tulane give up the home-and-home if it wanted to continue the series. The Green Wave stood their ground, and thus the series terminated after 1994, with single games in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Only the 2007 game was played in New Orleans.
Dean was ruinous for LSU athletics with his cheapness. Had it not been for five baseball national championships from 1991-2000 and numerous track and field titles, both men and women, the years Dean was athletic director (1987-2000) would have been worse than they were. Of course, Dean inherited baseball coach Skip Bertman, his future successor as athletic director, and track had long been a power before he hired Pat Henry.
Thankfully, then-LSU chancellor Mark Emmert told Dean to shut up in November 1999 after Dean’s buddy, Gerry DiNardo, was fired as football coach. Emmert took charge and got the deal done with Nick Saban.
I understand the desire of Green Wave fans to want to play LSU home-and-home.
However, Tulane boosters should seriously consider just how much better the athletic budget would be if the Wave plays every year in Baton Rouge, where there are 70,000 more seats.
Tulane would not only make a substantial gate playing in Tiger Stadium, much more than it would make for a home game or a road game against a non-Power 5 program, it would only have to pay travel expenses for bus rental to and from Baton Rouge. Even if it wanted to stay in Baton Rouge the night before the game, there would be no expense for a charter flight.
If LSU is to play in New Orleans, the game has to be in the Superdome.
Tulane is scheduled to play Ole Miss (2023), Kansas State (2024), Northwestern and Duke (2025) and Iowa State (2029) at Yulman. I’m surprised the Rebels agreed to this. I was shocked Oklahoma agreed to play Tulane on campus and not at the Superdome before Ida changed everything.
LSU is a different animal than most.
It would not be fair to the Bayou Bengals to play the game in a 30,000-seat stadium, not when LSU could bring many more fans than that and ensure a sellout at the Superdome, which would mean more for the bottom line for both schools.
If I were calling the shots, I would offer Tulane a three-for-one contract for 12 years–three games in Baton Rouge for every one in New Orleans. I would also be open to two-for-one.
I hope and pray LSU vs. Tulane returns to the gridiron before I pass. I’m asking too much, aren’t I?
I’m going to be rooting hard for both my alma mater and the Wave today. I have special interest in Tulane since a dear friend of mine, Rebecca Hale, is a passionate Wave booster. She taught me one semester of English during my junior year at Brother Martin High, and she quickly became one of my favorite teachers ever. We got back in touch four years ago, and it has been gratifying.
ROLL WAVE! GEAUX TIGERS!