The final four hours of 1972 in New Orleans featured two time-honored traditions.
One was the debauchery in the French Quarter, as thousands of drunken slobs got ready to change a calendar.
The second was the Sugar Bowl, which saw Oklahoma defeat Penn State 14-0.
Wait, a Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve?
Moving the Sugar Bowl from the traditional New Year’s Day slot it had occupied since 1935 to prime time on New Year’s Eve was made at the request of the American Broadcasting Company, which took over the television rights to the Sugar Bowl in 1969.
During the first three years it televised the Sugar Bowl, ABC noted its television ratings were far behind those of the Cotton Bowl, which was also played in the early afternoon of New Year’s Day.
For two of the three years in question, the Cotton Bowl matchup was Texas vs. Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl offered Arkansas vs. Ole Miss in January 1970 and Tennessee vs. Air Force the next season.
Let’s see here…the nation’s No. 1 team two years running against the most recognizable brand in the sport playing in Dallas, against two all-white southern teams one year, then another southern team which only had a handful of blacks going up against a service academy, one which had zero following outside the Rocky Mountain region.
Who do YOU think would win the ratings battle?
It got little better in January 1972. Texas was back in the Cotton Bowl, this time facing Penn State. The Sugar Bowl had Oklahoma facing Auburn.
The Sugar Bowl started an hour before the Cotton Bowl, but when the Sooners bolted to a 31-0 halftime lead, TV sets everywhere outside of Oklahoma City and Tulsa flipped to watch the Nittany Lions and Longhorns.
In the spring of 1972, ABC demanded the Mid-Winter Sports Carnival, the New Orleans group responsible for the Sugar Bowl, move the game or else face cuts in team payouts.
ABC ponied up the cash–$575,000 per team, which in 1972 was a heck of a lot. The Sugar Bowl relented.
Sorry I got sidetracked with football. Back to the main story.
As the Sugar Bowl wound down, Mark James Robert Essex drove from his wretched boarding house on Dryades Street to the Orleans Parish Prison, known by locals as Central Lockup.
Essex’ goal in the waning minutes of 1972 was not to free prisoners, but to kill “pigs”.
His first target was a 19-year old unarmed police cadet named Bruce Weatherford.
Weatherford was assigned to work the graveyard shift–2300 to 0700–at the prison.
Just as the cadet emerged from his car after listening to the end of the Sugar Bowl on the radio, Essex fired his .44 magnum carbine.
The bullet missed Weatherford’s head, kicking up concrete chips as he ran towards the prison entrance. Weatherford waved to Alfred Harrell, a fellow cadet and good friend, to raise the gate to entrance, known as the “sally port”.
Even though Weatherford made it inside the prison safely, Essex kept firing. He struck Lt. Horace Perez in the ankle and shot Harrell, a 19-year old black, through the chest.
Lt. Kenneth Dupauquier checked Harrell for a pulse. There was none.
Alfred Harrell left behind a wife and a nine-month old son.
Essex ran from the prison and hid in a warehouse in Gert Town, one of the most crime-ridden sectors of the city. He set off an alarm inside the warehouse, and that drew the attention of patrolmen Edwin Hosli Sr. and Harold Blappert.
Hosli sent in his K-9 to sniff out the suspect, but before the dog could act, Essex shot Hosli.
The wounds turned out to be fatal.
Hosli never regained consciousness. He spent two months hooked up to life-support machines before succumbing 5 March 1973, the day before Mardi Gras. He was 27, leaving behind a wife and four children, one of whom, Edwin Hosli Jr., reached the rank of Captain with the NOPD.
Word of Harrell’s murder, Hosli’s life-threatening injuries and the bullet wound to Perez soon reached Police Chief Clarence Giarrusso, who naturally was angry and saddened by the turn of events.
Giarrusso’s second-in-command, Deputy Chief Louis Sirgo, led the investigation into Hosli’s shooting at the warehouse.
The next day, a group of officers prepared to storm the warehouse in an attempt to flush out Essex. Just before the raid was to commence, word came from headquarters to stand down. Many officers thought about defying a direct order and going after the sniper, but did as they were told.
With the city on edge as 1973 commenced, Essex went into hiding. His only known appearance in public during the first six days of the year came when he walked into a small grocery store at the corner of Gayoso and Erato Streets.
On the afternoon of 3 January, Cadet Alfred Harrell was laid to rest. Many of the NOPD’s top brass, including Giarrusso, Sirgo and Chief of Detectives Henry Morris, attended, as did Mayor Moon Landrieu.
The next day, a memorial service was held at St. Louis Cathedral for U.S. Representative Hale Boggs, who was flying in a plane over Alaska with that state’s Representative, Nick Begich, when it was lost in a snowstorm. Boggs, who was House Majority Leader for the 92nd Congress under Speaker Carl Albert, was declared dead the day the 93rd Congress convened.
A few hours after Boggs’ service ended in the French Quarter, grocery store Joe Perniciaro and his stock boy came to police headquarters with a tip about a customer who resembled the shooter at parish prison.
Apparently, the blacks who lived in the area knew Perniciaro went to the police. They tipped off Essex.
On the first Sunday morning of 1973, Mark James Robert Essex went to Perniciaro’s grocery store with his .44 carbine. As the grocer turned to run, Essex shot Perniciaro in the shoulder.
Essex left the grocery store and soon happened upon Marvin Albert, a black man sitting outside his South White Street reisdence in his 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle.
Albert soon looked up to find the double barrel of a .44 magnum in his face.
Essex demanded, “Hi brother. Get out of the car!”
Albert replied “Are you crazy?”
Essex then said “I’m only killing honkies today, but I will kill you, too.”
Not wanting to give his life for something as trivial as a car, White got out. Essex sped off in the stolen vehicle and headed straight for the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Hotel at 330 Loyola Avenue, across the street from the Louisiana Supreme Court and City Hall.
White flagged down officer Peter Dominick, who let White ride shotgun as they searched for Essex and the car.
Essex nearly t-boned another driver in the parking garage, then left the car on the fourth floor of the seven-floor garage. He attempted to gain access to floors on one end of the hallway, but each door was locked.
Then he got to the 18th floor, the top floor of the hotel.
A piece of linen placed there by a maid held the door ajar. Essex was inside the hotel, and his reign of terror was about to commence.
As he rushed by startled maids, all of whom were black, Essex said “Don’t you worry. I want the whites”.
The maids did not care Essex wasn’t going to harm them. They were far more concerned with the huge bulge in his shirt which concealed his .44 magnum.
The first person Essex encountered in the 18th floor hallway was Dr. Robert Stegall. He and his wife, Betty, resided in Martinsville, Virginia, and were on a belated honeymoon throughout the southern United States. The Stegalls were scheduled to check out of the Howard Johnson’s by noon and head east to Panama City, Florida.
Dr. Stegall saw Essex running and attempted to dislodge the rifle from the sniper. Essex recovered, hit the doctor with the butt, then shot him twice through the chest.
Mrs. Stegall pleaded frantically with Essex to spare her husband, but he shoved her aside. Once the doctor was bleeding out, Mrs. Stegall was shot through the back of the skull. He lay the bodies next to each other, then set the room on fire. He set fire to every 18th floor room he found open by squirting the phone directory with lighter fluid, lighting it, then setting it under the drapes.
In short order, Essex blew out the brains of the hotel’s assistant manager, Frank Schneider, then shot the general manager, Walter Collins, who died 19 days later.
With fires raging throughout the hotel, the NOFD quickly arrived on the scene. The first fire to climb a ladder, Lt. Tim Ursin, was shot in the shoulder by Essex from a balcony on the 18th floor. Ursin eventually lost that arm.
After shooting Ursin, Essex moved to the roof, where he began to fire at will every time a police officer came into view. A group of young blacks stood across Loyola from the hotel and loudly cheered “RIGHT ON!” every time Essex fired. The blacks also hurled epithets and threw objects at the police attempting to keep order.
When officer Phillip Coleman drove his squad car onto a grassy area across the street from the hotel, Essex shot Coleman in the head from a distance of more than 95 meters (315 feet). The 26-year old died instantly. Coleman’s partner, Ken Solis, was wounded, as was Sgt. Emanuel Palmisano. It took Times-Picayune photographer Gerry Arnold to take the radio from Coleman’s car and call for help.
Not long after Coleman was murdered, motorcycle officer Paul Persigo was also shot fatally in the head by Essex. The 33-year old Persigo was wearing a white helmet, making him a sitting duck.
By this time, Giarrusso had arrived on scene at the hotel. He had been headed to New Orleans International Airport to catch a flight to Washington for a law enforcement conference, but turned back when his radio crackled with news of the shooting. He actually was in the line of fire as he made his way down Loyola from the Bank of Louisiana building to the hotel. He set up his command post in the hotel’s lobby, a move which Giarrusso admitted in hindsight was not the best idea.
Word soon reached Giarrusso that two officers, Michael Burl and Paul Childress, were trapped in the elevator shaft. Electricity in the hotel had gone out, leaving the elevator cars stuck on the top floor. Burl and Childress were about to asphyxiate from smoke inhalation if they did not get out of the shaft soon.
Giarrusso ordered Sirgo to lead a group of officers up the stairwell where the elevators were located in order to free Burl and Childress.
As Sirgo led the group up the stairs between the 16th and 17th floors, Essex fired in the dark.
Louis Sirgo, hand-picked by Giarrusso to be deputy superintendent in 1970, six years after Sirgo retired from the forced while Clarence’s older brother, Joe, was police chief, had been fatally wounded at the age of 48.
Sirgo’s loss left Giarrusso and every other officer on the scene despondent. Essex had taken out three officers and four civilians in only a few hours, and Lord only knew how many more could die if this madman was not contained.
At the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station approximately 24 kilometers (15 miles) southeast of the Central Business District, Lt. Col. Chuck Pitman watched with horror as the sniping continued unabated throughout the afternoon. WWL, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, cut into regular programming to provide frequent updates on the happenings at 330 Loyola. The reporting by Phil Johnson, Bill Elder and others cemented WWL’s reputation as one of the best local news affiliates in the country.
Pitman called Giarrusso and Landrieu to offer his services. After going through several ideas, Pittman suggested he would be able to take a load of officers up in a CH53 Black Hawk helicopter and allow them to shoot through the portholes which normally housed machine guns.
To Pittman, trying to take out one sniper had to be a hell of a lot easier than what he experienced in Vietnam, where his helicopter was shot down seven times. Pitman also made nearly 1,200 successful missions and had enough medals to make MacArthur and Eisenhower jealous.
Pitman landed his helicopter near the construction site of the Superdome. Three officers–Frank Buras, Thomas Casey and Antoine Saacks–volunteered to go up in the helicopter with Pittman in order to root out Essex.
Meanwhile, civilians were showing up at the hotel with rifles, elephant guns and all sorts of weapons, volunteering their services to find the elusive sniper. Giarrusso found out these false reports were being on radio stations across New Orleans, and those on WWL AM could be heard in places like Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, Louisville and Atlanta.
Giarrusso angrily told the civilians to leave or face arrest.
Rooting out Essex was easier said than done.
Pittman made two passes over the roof, attempting to flush Essex out of his concrete bunker on the east side of the hotel. The sniper returned fire, hitting the helicopter and forcing it to land.
On the third pass, the officers were able to hit the drainpipe which Essex clung to in the bunker, forcing him out into the open.
Once Essex became visible, a day’s worth of frustration was unleashed by Buras, Casey, Saacks and other officers, including Detective Gus Krinkie and NOPD Ballistics Chief Anthony Vega, who were perched atop the burned-out Rault Center, where Essex’s dastardly deeds began 39 days earlier.
Mark James Robert Essex was dead at the age of 23. An autopsy performed by New Orleans coroner Dr. Carl Rabin revealed Essex had been hit by more than 200 bullets.
Essex was dead, but Giarrusso and the others believed there were one or two more snipers somewhere in the hotel. The next morning, Pitman flew more sorties over the roof, but nobody else was there.
By early afternoon Monday, Giarrusso did what he had avoided doing for so long: he ordered an assault on the roof by numerous officers.
There was gunfire aplenty, but the only people wounded were NOPD officers, victims of friendly fire.
By sunset on 8 January, one of New Orleans’ greatest tragedies was over.
Giarrusso believed Essex was part of a larger conspiracy to kill police officers. Gov. Edwin Edwards encouraged the Louisiana Legislature to pass a new death penalty bill for such heinous crimes. Black leaders attempted to cool the temperature by pointing out Essex was not from Louisiana, but rather came uninvited from Kansas.
On the morning of 9 January, Essex was identified as the sniper. His boyhood in Emporia, his service in the Navy, his time in New Orleans all became public knowledge.
Nellie Essex, the sniper’s mother, blamed “white society” for killing “her Jimmy” and that it was time for “white America” to get off its “(butts) and do something”. This interview was broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite to millions of American homes three days after Essex’s rampage.
Persigo, Coleman and Sirgo were buried later that week, with Giarrusso and Landrieu leading the eulogies at all three funerals. Essex was buried in Emporia that Saturday, with many black militants in attendance.
The day after Essex was buried, the Dolphins defeated the Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete their 17-0 season. It was good to be back to normal.
The Super Bowl, Nixon’s second inauguration, Roe v. Wade, Lyndon Johnson’s death, George Foreman’s stunning knockout of Joe Frazier and the Paris Peace Accords all buried Essex’s sniping to the back burner rather quickly. However, to those who were living in New Orleans at that time, and those who grew up in the city, it cannot be forgotten.
Through the years, I have regarded Mark James Robert Essex as as dastardly criminal, one who does not deserve any respect. My stomach turns when I see internet postings about how Essex is a “hero” and a “martyr” for black Americans.
People have prejudices. I have them.
However, it does not give anyone the right to use violence to correct those wrongs. Essex chose to shoot police officers and civilians in a show of raw hatred. He set that fire at the Rault Center, knowing most of the clients of the salon and Lamplighter Club were white, although a black lady was one of the ones who jumped to her death.
Giarrusso was subject to numerous death threats in the weeks following the carnage. There were threats made against his family that they would be kidnapped during Mardi Gras and held for ransom.
Mardi Gras 1973 was held under a very dark cloud. That year’s Mardi Gras already figured to be discordant, since the City Council banned parades from rolling int the French Quarter in August 1972. The racial tension exacerbated it.
Hatred reared its ugly head in New Orleans later in 1973.
On the evening of 24 June, fire raged at The Upstairs, a lounge at the edge of the French Quarter which was a known hangout for gay men.
The fire was blamed on an angry patron who had been denied entrance. He bought a bottle of lighter fluid at a nearby Walgreens, doused the stairwell upon his return, then lit a match to spark the inferno.
The fire killed 32, making it the deadliest in Louisiana’s history.
Two months before my birth, Wichita was the location of a sniper atop a hotel.
On 11 August 1976, 19-year old Michael Soles went to the top of the Holiday Inn on Douglas Street downtown and fired at will, killing three and injuring eight. Unlike Essex, who forced the police to blow him to bits, Soles surrendered and was sentenced to three life terms. He has been denied parole on numerous occasions over the last 31 years.
Essex and Soles are largely forgotten in the wake of Columbine, 9/11, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Stoneman Douglas, Uvalde and many others. Time may heal most wounds, but these still run deep.
Thank you for reading this two-part tragedy. I hope I didn’t depress you. Take care.
NOTE: I realized one post would be way too unwieldy for what I’m discussing here. This is part one of two.
On the morning of 7 January 1993, I awoke and dressed for another day of school at Brother Martin High.
Splashed across the front page of The Times-Picayune was a headline and a picture commemorating the 20th anniversary of a bloody 30-hour standoff at a high-rise hotel which saw three New Orleans Police Department officers and four civilians lose their lives, with numerous others injured, including a firefighter who lost his arm.
That was the first I heard of the Howard Johnson’s sniper.
When I attended LSU in the mid to late 1990s, the basement of the library housed microfilm copies of the newspapers in New Orleans and Baton Roue dating to the 19th century, plus film of papers from New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Louis, among other locales.
One of the first things I did was pull out The Times-Picayune film from the incident.
I discovered the sniper, Mark James Robert Essex, was born and raised in Emporia.
Yes, Emporia, KANSAS.
Essex grew up with two brothers and two sisters. His father was a foreman at the local meat packing plant. His mother was a strict housewife who regularly paddled her children when doing so was encouraged.
After graduation from Emporia High in 1967, Essex enrolled at Pittsburg State University, but he soon dropped out.
As a 19-year old without a college deferment, Essex knew he was a prime candidate to be drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam, where the war showed no signs of ending.
Not wanting to be transported home in a “cardboard box” (thank you, Country Joe and the Fish) from southeast Asia, Essex voluntarily joined the military, enlisting in the Navy, where the likelihood of combat duty was not zero, but far less the Army and Marines.
It turned worked out quite well for the young black man.
Instead of slogging through rice paddies and taking on enemy fire nearly every day, Essex was sent to the large naval base in San Diego, where he became a dental technician under the guidance of Lt. Dr. Richard Hatcher following basic training.
Southern California instead of the Mekong Delta? San Diego instead of Saigon? Jackpot.
By August 1970, Essex began to accuse fellow sailors of racism. He went AWOL two months later and was court-martialed in January 1971.
One month after his court-martial, Essex was discharged. It was not dishonorable, but it was certainly not honorable. This prevented him from re-enrolling in college under the GI bill, and would have hindered him in receiving healthcare from the Veterans Administration.
Essex’ hatred of white people dominated what was left of his life.
Following his discharge, Essex went to New York, where he spent three months receiving indoctrination from radical Black Panthers under the leadership of Eldridge Cleaver, whose more militant Panthers broke away from those led by Bobby Seale. Cleaver accused Seale of “selling out” because he was now living in a luxury penthouse in Oakland and toned down his rhetoric, much the same way Malcolm X before his 1965 assassination.
Cleaver’s group published a newspaper which included tips for black radicals on how to kill “pigs” (police officers) and “honkies” (white people). A mantra of the paper stated “revolution comes from the barrel of a gun”.
The Black Panthers were a shadow of themselves in early 1971. Essex became disillusioned after retaliatory killings by members of the Cleaver and Seale factions, and left New York in mid-May of that year.
Essex got out of New York just before two NYPD officers, Waverly Jones (a black) and Joseph Piganetini, were murdered by members of the Black Liberation Army, a socialist revolutionary group which was even more violent than the heyday of the Panthers.
Essex returned to Emporia. The hate-filled 22-year old was fired from job after job due to insubordination. He couldn’t even stick around at the meat packing plant where his father worked.
In his spare time, which was plenty because of his large swaths of unemployment, Essex was a voracious reader of anti-white literature. His anger was further stoked after the September riots at Attica State Prison in western New York, where 28 prisoners (mostly black) and nine corrections officers were killed.
Essex took the next step down his fateful road in April 1972 when he purchased a .44 magnum carbine from Montgomery Ward with the help of a friend. All Essex had to do to acquire the powerful weapon was fill out a one-page form.
That spring and summer, Essex spent his free time in vast open spaces around Lyon County shooting his weapon.
In August 1972, Essex packed up his .44 carbine and a sawed-off shotgun, along with a few meager possessions, and drove his 1963 Chevrolet to New Orleans, where a good friend, Rodney Frank, resided. Frank and Essex served together in the Navy, and like Essex, Frank harbored a strong hatred of whites.
Essex was accepted into a federal job training program. He studied vending machine repair and excelled in the course. However, he could never keep a steady address, moving from one dilapidated apartment to another.
As was the case at every job he held in Kansas, Essex found vending machine repair beneath him. He dropped out of the course and spent his days reading more radical anti-white literature.
In a two-week stretch of November, Mark Essex went from angry to deadly.
The Thursday before Thanksgiving (16 November), protests erupted at Southern University, a historically black school on the north side of Baton Rouge, 18 kilometers (11 miles) from the largely white LSU.
Those protests soon became full-fledged riots, prompting university president Dr. Leon Netterville to call from help from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s office.
Soon, Gov. Edwin Edwards learned of what was going on at Southern, and he ordered the Louisiana State Police in. Edwards soon flew to the university by helicopter and spoke to the students, who mercilessly heckled the man who would go on to serve four terms as governor and later end up in federal prison on racketeering and bribery convictions.
Two students, Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, were killed.
This enraged Essex, who thought “pigs” were again shooting and killing innocent black people.
(On the other hand, Essex probably didn’t give a damn when four white students were shot and killed at Kent State in May 1970.)
Essex’s rage boiled into an inferno–literally.
On 29 November, a massive fire broke out on the 15th floor of the Rault Center, a high rise in the Central Buisness District.
The fire raged through the Lamplighter Club and an adjacent hair salon.
Several trapped on the 15th floor made it to the 16th, where they were rescued by helicopter, but sadly, not everyone could make it out.
Faced with the terrifying prospect of burning to death or otherwise dying from smoke inhalation, five women in the salon attempted to jump to safety.
Three died instantly. One died of her injuries several days later.
The fifth, Natalie V. Smith, lived more than 40 years after.
There were no sprinklers in the Rault Center, which angered then-Deputy Fire Chief William McCrossen. When he was promoted to the top spot in the spring of 1973, McCrossen immediately demanded all buildings be fitted with sprinklers.
Arson was immediately suspected.
Two suspicious black men were spotted on the 15th floor the morning of the fire. One of them matched the description of Mark Essex.
Unfortunately for building owner Joseph Rault, the New Orleans Fire Department and the victims’ families, they would never see Mark Essex brought to justice.
That’s because Essex wouldn’t live long enough to be brought to justice for the arson, thanks to more brazen crimes.
TO BE CONTINUED
I was very lazy today. Didn’t feel like doing much of anything besides sleeping and eating. Seroquel threw me for a good loop.
I get that way on days where I don’t have appointments or work to do. I might have been that way yesterday, but I had an appointment in the morning at Hays and one in the afternoon at the Russell hospital, so I stayed awake most of the day, even though I woke up at 0400, two hours before I set my alarm.
I didn’t set my alarm today. I kept my phone on vibrate as to not be distracted by incoming texts or messages. Not that anyone important was calling.
The NFL approved the changed AFC playoff plan, which gives the Chiefs a grossly unfair advantage if they defeat the Raiders tomorrow in Las Vegas.
Sure, Kansas City might not host the AFC championship if the Chiefs play the Bills (or possibly the Bengals), but (a) the Chiefs get the bye and an easier game in the divisional round, and they won’t have to play on the road in the AFC championship. The game will be in a neutral site, probably Detroit or Minneapolis, since Indianapolis is unavailable, and I can’t see the NFL wanting to put it in Cleveland or Chicago and be subject to the elements.
Patrick Mahomes, untouchable golden boy of the NFL. He inherits the mantle from Tom Brady, who no longer has the hot wife the media drools over.
Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of one of the darkest days for my native city AND the state where I currently reside. Tomorrow’s post is going to be very, very, VERY long. Be ready. You have been warned.
Time to rest up and get ready to write a lot.
The NFL has decided to cancel the Bills-Bengals game, which had to be stopped after nine minutes Monday due to the life-threatening situation involving Buffalo’s Damar Hamlin, who is now conscious. .
This means all the Chiefs need to do is defeat the pathetic Raiders Saturday in Las Vegas and they will have a bye for the first round of the playoffs. If the Chiefs lose and the Bills beat the Patriots, then Buffalo gets the bye, but I cannot see Kansas City losing to Las Vegas and Jerk McDaniels. Sure, the Raiders had a 14-point lead when the teams played at Arrowhead in October, but the Chiefs have had almost three months to adjust, and Vegas waved the white flag by benching Derek Carr.
Patrick Mahomes is living a charmed life: well-endowed between the legs and in the bank, a hot wife who has become a baby machine, and now his team stands to benefit from another’s tragedy.
If the Chiefs play the Bills for the AFC championship, the NFL could force the game to move out of Kansas City to a neutral site, probably Detroit or Indianapolis, since both locales have stadiums with roofs.
To me, the bigger deal is having that week of rest which the Bills won’t have if the Chiefs win. Since the playoffs expanded from 12 teams to 14 in 2020, only one team in each conference gets a bye. The other six teams in each conference have to be dead tired after playing two playoff games following anywhere from six to ten regular season games without a rest.
Sure, the Packers have twice blown it after earning the bye in the NFC, and it didn’t help the Titans a year ago, but the Chiefs benefitted from it in 2020, coming back from the week off to take out the Browns and Bills before no-showing in Super Bowl LV.
I’m avoiding the NFL Network and ESPN this week. No need to ESPN on before Saturday at 1530 (3:30 p.m.), and then there’s Red Zone Sunday at 1200, but that’s it. No need to hear anything else from NFL media, which has forgotten about the 1,600 players who will suit up this weekend and focused on the one who almost lost his life. I understand the concern and desire to receive the latest news on Hamlin, but the games are the thing.
I’m fading. Seroquel does that to you. Time to get off the computer.
Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety who suffered cardiac arrest Monday on the field in Cincinnati, is still in critical condition in the intensive care unit at the University of Cincinnati hospital, but according to a family spokesman, is showing “sings of improvement”.
The House of Representatives still doesn’t have a speaker. Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, sex trafficker Matt Goetz and a few other jerks won’t support Kevin McCarthy, even when Dear Leader Trump asked them to support him.
Is the championship of the College Football Playoff still being played Monday? Apparently, only media outlets in Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth are focusing on something other than Hamlin in the world of sports. Wichita stations did not mention Hamlin tonight; it was all about basketball with the Jayhawks and Wildcats.
Maybe the House will have a speaker by this time tomorrow. I doubt it. Boebert, Gosar, Goetz and others like Chip Roy, Bob Good and others are dug in so hard they might as well be encased in concrete.
For once, Trump is right. It’s time to get to work in the House.
The NFL is scheduled to return to play Saturday. Maybe.
Thank God for streaming. Good night.
The world is a scary and sick place.
Between the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin’s scary medical emergency on the field last night in Cincinnati and several Trump worshippers sabotaging the vote for Speaker of the House, the last 27 hours have been horrible. It can only get better, right?
Four hours before Hamlin’s collapse, Tulane wrote the fairytale ending to one of the greatest Cinderella stories in college football this century.
The Green Wave, 2-10 in 2021, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final six minutes of the Cotton Bowl to stun mighty Southern California 46-45. By going 12-2 this season, Tulane now has the greatest single-season turnaround in the history of college football’s top division.
Tulane deserves the moment in the sun, considering it has been among college football have-nots for most of the last 73 seasons.
In 1949, the Wave was ranked No. 4 when it went to South Bend and was crushed 46-7 by Frank Leahy’s Fighting Irish. Tulane recovered to win the Southeastern Conference championship, but was denied a berth in the Sugar Bowl–on its home field–when it lost 21-0 to LSU. The Bayou Bengals went to the Sugar Bowl and were demolished 35-0 by Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners, whose offense was led by quarterback Darrell Royal.
Starting in the early 1950s, Tulane forced athletes to take the same rigorous course load required of all other undergraduates. This meant physical education and other so-called “fluff” classes were no more.
Additionally, Tulane drastically reduced the number of scholarships it offered, leaving it with precious little depth when battling LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and other SEC behemoths.
Years of losing caught up to Tulane’s administration and boosters, and on 31 December 1964, the school announced it was leaving the SEC at the end of the 1965-66 school year.
The Wave had a few good seasons here and there–8-4 under Jim Pittman in 1970, 9-3 under Bennie Ellender in 1973, 9-3 under Larry Smith in 1979–but by the mid-1980s, the program was at its nadir.
Wally English, Tulane’s coach in 1983 and ’84, began his tenure by starting his son, Jon, at quarterback. Problem was, Jon English was ineligible, and the Wave was forced to forfeit four wins in ’83, including one over Florida State. When 1984 ended with a bench-clearing brawl vs. LSU in Baton Rouge, Tulane athletic director Hindman Wall had seen enough and sent English packing.
Meanwhile, two very dark clouds hung over Willow Street.
The first was a point-shaving scandal involving the men’s basketball team. Several players, including superstar John “Hot Rod” Williams, were forced to testify in front of a grand jury. Williams was eventually acquitted, but others were not so lucky.
On 4 April 1985, Tulane president Eamon Kelly announced the immediate termination of the men’s basketball program. Tulane was expelled from the Metro Conference later that month, as a men’s basketball program was an ironclad requirement for membership.
Shortly after the point-shaving scandal, Tulane football appeared to be on life support.
Mack Brown was hired to replace English. He soon became Tulane’s interim athletic director following Wall’s resignation in the wake of the point-shaving scandal.
As Brown led the Wave through a depressing 1-10 campaign in 1985, a 14-member committee studied whether or not the university should drop football.
The night before Tulane faced Southern Mississippi, the committee deadlocked 7-7. Another vote was taken before the Wave hosted LSU, and it came out 8-6 in favor of football.
One of the members of the committee was Darrell Royal, who won 190 games and three national championships coaching Texas from 1957-76. Royal told Brown that he should get the hell out of New Orleans as quickly as possible, because Tulane was never going to be able to compete with LSU.
Brown stayed at Tulane through 1987, then went to North Carolina, a large state school, but one where he was in the large shadow cast by Dean Smith. Ironically, Brown made his way to Austin in 1998 and spent 16 seasons on the 40 Acres, winning the 2005 national championship, the Longhorns’ first since Royal’s last in 1970.
Tulane, which had been an independent since leaving the SEC, joined the new Conference USA in 1996. The Wave went 12-0 in 1998 and finished No. 7 in the national polls, but soon returned to the lower echelon of the sport it had become too accustomed to.
Willie Fritz was hired from Georgia Southern in 2016 and led Tulane to three consecutive bowl games from 2018-20, the first time the Wave had achieved that feat.
Hurricane Ida destroyed any hopes Tulane had of making it four in a row.
What transpired Monday in Arlington has more than made up for it.
LSU won 63-7 over a depleted Purdue team in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. No need to say much about that one. LSU was expected to win big and it did. Now it needs to carry the momentum into Brian Kelly’s second season.
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!
For those of you who woke up with a hangover this morning, I have ZERO sympathy for you. In fact, I mock your stupidity. You got what you deserved for partying all because a calendar changed. Congratulations. Remember how you felt this morning when you make the decision whether or not to repeat this 364 days from now. (HINT: if you do, you are far dumber than I thought).
In case you haven’t heard, Georgia and TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERISTY (TCU) will play for the 2022 college football national championship a week from Monday at Inglewood, California. That’s right, the TCU Horned Frogs, a team which was relegated to 16 years in college football’s wilderness thanks to powerful Texas politicians, is one win away from its first national championship since 1938.
A remarkable story considering the wilderness the Horned Frogs were forced to wander through before making it back to the big stage.
By the end of 1993, it was apparent the Southwest Conference was on life support.
Arkansas, a powerhouse in football, men’s basketball, baseball and track and field, departed for the Southeastern Conference in the fall of 1991 for all sports except football; the Razorbacks played a last lame-duck year in the SWC before moving over in 1992.
The Razorbacks’ departure was mostly for financial reasons, but Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, who coached the football team to unprecedented success from 1958-76, was tired of fellow members being slapped with severe sanctions by the NCAA, which in turn tarnished the reputation of the entire SWC.
The worst of the worst was at Southern Methodist, where the Mustangs had a large slush fund football and men’s basketball athletes. Mustangs All-America running back Eric Dickerson, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Rams and Colts, joked he had to take a pay cut when he left SMU and reported to Anaheim, where Rams owner Georgia Frontiere was known as one of the tightest owners in the league. Craig James, who helped the Patriots reach Super Bowl XX in 1985, was part of the “Pony Express” backfield with Dickerson when the Mustangs went 11-0-1 in 1982 and finished second behind Penn State in the final rankings, also was paid, but not as much as Dickerson and others.
SMU was placed on probation under coach Ron Meyer for the 1981 season. The Mustangs went 10-1 and won the SWC championship, but could not play in the Cotton Bowl, which happens to be less than 12 kilometers (7 miles) from SMU’s campus. Meyer left to coach the Patriots following the 1981 season, but his successor, Bobby Collins, found more trouble with the boosters, and SMU was placed on probation for 1985 and 1986–no TV, no bowl games.
That wasn’t enough to deter the Mustang bigwigs, led by former–and future–governor Bill Clements. Therefore, the NCAA was forced to take the most drastic step.
On 25 February 1987, SMU’s football program was handed the “death penalty”. There would be no games in 1987, and if the Mustangs chose to play in 1988, it could only play its eight conference games, all on the road. SMU could sign NO new players in February 1988, and would be penalized 55 scholarships in all through February 1990. Also, the Mustangs would be banned from live TV and bowl games for 1988 and 1989. SMU saw the writing on the wall and cancelled its 1988 season as well.
While SMU’s egregious violations were well-known from Seattle to Miami, from San Diego to Boston, there was chicanery also occurring on the opposite side of the Metroplex.
TCU went 8-4 in 1984, its first winning season since 1971. Not bad for a program which went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
However, two games into the 1985 season, it was revealed numerous Horned Frogs, including star running back Kenneth Davis, had been accepting payments from boosters, the same as their rivals to the east on Interstate 30.
Instead of waiting for the hammer to drop from NCAA headquarters in Kansas City, TCU coach Jim Wacker reported the violations himself.
Angered by the problems at SMU, Houston and other SWC schools, the NCAA hammered the Horned Frogs, placing them on three years’ probation and taking away 45 scholarships between 1986 and ’88.
TCU sank back to the depths it experienced previously. It never truly recovered until the late 1990s, when Dennis Franchione took over the coaching reigns and brought in a once-in-a-lifetime running back named LaDanian Tomlinson.
In early 1994, the eight remaining SWC schools went hat-in-hand to the Big Eight Conference and proposed a merger to form the first 16-team superconference.
The Big Eight was receptive…but only to adding Texas and Texas A&M. The other six (Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech) were told they would have to fend for themselves.
Not so fast, said then-Texas Governor Ann Richards and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock.
Richards and Bullock, whose position also made him president of the Texas Senate, told the Big Eight that if did not include Texas Tech and Baylor in the merger, then the Longhorns and Aggies would not be allowed to join.
If the Big Eight was going to take two other schools besides the behemoths in Austin and College Station, wouldn’t it want one in each of the major metropolitan areas? What sense would it make to take the schools in Lubbock and Waco instead of one in Houston and one in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex?
That would have made sense, but Richards and Bullock both had degrees from…BAYLOR.
With an election looming, one where Richards would have to face George W. Bush, the son of the former president and then-owner of the Texas Rangers, the incumbent governor figured she could get votes from traditionally-Republican northwest Texas by adding in Texas Tech to the merger.
On 25 February 1994, the Big 12 was unveiled, with the Big Eight (Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) being joined by Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. It would start play in the fall of 1996.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU was swift and blistering.
Houston was angry it was the lone public school from the SWC being left out. Rice, SMU and TCU were angry that Baylor got the lone invitation among the private schools.
If I had been in charge, I would have taken TCU and Rice. That would have given the Big 12 the metro areas while also adding academic prestige. Houston had way too many run-ins with the NCAA under Bill Yeoman in the 1970s and 1980s, and it continued into Jack Pardee’s tenure. SMU had too much baggage for the obvious reasons. Baylor also had run-ins with the NCAA, and the religious fanaticism on that campus is not attractive.
Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU were marooned on island with no life raft in sight.
The Owls, Mustangs and Horned Frogs latched on an expanded Western Athletic Conference. Beginning in 1996, the conference had 16 teams, with four quadrants of four locked into two divisions. The unwieldy conference stretched from Hawaii to Houston, with teams in three of the four major American time zones.
The travel proved to be a breaking point for many of the old-line WAC members, most notably its two most prominent football powers, BYU and Utah.
The Cougars and Utes convinced Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming and San Diego State, the other consistent football winners, to form a new conference, with basketball powers New Mexico and UNLV also invited. The Mountain West Conference was born in 1999.
Houston, which refused the WAC’s overtures, joined the new Conference USA, where it joined schools without football (Charlotte, DePaul, Marquette, Saint Louis), basketball powers with middling football programs (Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis), former southern independents (Southern Miss, Tulane), and two schools (UAB, South Florida) with nascent football programs.
Two years after the WAC old-timers left, TCU also departed the WAC, joining its former SWC rival in C-USA.
The Horned Frogs’ stay in C-USA would be short. In 2005, TCU reunited with BYU, Utah and all the rest in the Mountain West.
Utah and TCU dominated the MWC in football in the late 2000s. The Utes went undefeated and bested Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season, while the Horned Frogs put together back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and ’10.
TCU lost the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season to Boise State, but one year later, the Horned Frogs, led by Andy Dalton, stunned Wisconsin and J.J. Watt in the Rose Bowl. TCU finished the 2010 season ranked #2 behind Auburn.
As the Horned Frogs made their run to Pasadena, they were invited to join the Big East in 2012. The Big East had an automatic berth to the Bowl Championship Series, something the MWC did not, and the conference figured to be ripe for the Horned Frogs to dominate on the gridiron.
By October 2011, the Big 12 was on the verge of a sudden collapse.
On 1 July 2011, two Big Eight expatriates, Colorado and Nebraska, were out of the Big 12, with the Buffaloes joining the Pac-10 (renamed the Pac-12 with the simultaneous addition of Utah) and the Cornhuskers becoming the 12th school of the Big Ten.
Two months later, Texas A&M announced it would be heading to the SEC the next year. Rumors were swirling Missouri would join Aggies as the SEC’s 14th member.
To fill A&M’s vacancy, TCU received the invitation it had been waiting on for almost 18 years. Bye bye Big East! Nice not knowing ye.
The Horned Frogs were back among college athletics’ elite. West Virginia took Missouri’s spot.
Next year, TCU will be reunited with three former conference rivals when BYU, Houston and Cincinnati join the Big 12, along with Central Florida.
TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to play in the CFP championship game came from absolutely nowhere.
In the midst of a terrible 2021 season, the Horned Frogs did the unthinkable by firing longtime coach Gary Patterson, whose bronze likeness greets visitors to Amon G. Carter Stadium. Patterson coached the Horned Frogs to their greatest success since Abe Martin in the late 1950s, going 181-79 over 21 seasons, including the unprecedented dominance of 2009 and ’10.
To replace Patterson, TCU raided its old archrival to the east, hiring SMU coach Sonny Dykes.
Dykes is a scion of Texas football royalty as the son of the late Spike Dykes, a three-time SWC Coach of the Year at Texas Tech and still revered in Lubbock as much as the late Mike Leach, who sadly passed away three weeks ago.
Many outside of the Metroplex worried Dykes would be overwhelmed by the challenges of the Big 12. The media picked TCU to finish seventh in the 2022 Big 12 standings.
The Horned Frogs started with wins over Colorado, Tarleton State (??) and SMU, but a 55-24 rout of Oklahoma in Fort Worth made the experts take notice.
TCU went to Lawrence the next week and handed Kansas its first loss after five consecutive wins. A thrilling 43-40 win in two overtimes vs. Oklahoma State and a comeback from an 18-point deficit vs. Kansas State catapulted the Frogs into national championship conversation.
West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas all went down, but those title hopes appeared to be dead in Waco.
TCU was out of timeouts and trailing 28-26 in the final minute. The Horned Frogs had to rush their field goal team onto the field in order to get an attempt off before time expired. The snap came with maybe six-tenths of a second remaining. The kick was good. TCU 29, Baylor 28.
The Frogs routed Iowa State to conclude the regular season undefeated, but in the Big 12 title game vs. Kansas State, they were stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The Wildcats kicked a field goal to win the game 31-28 and their third Big 12 championship.
TCU’s playoff hopes were tenuous. Ohio State claimed it was worthy of a spot despite being crushed at home by Michigan in its regular season finale. Alabama said it should be the first two-loss team in the playoff, with the losses coming to Tennessee on a field goal at the gun and to LSU when the Bayou Bengals were successful on a 2-point conversion in overtime. Nick Saban went on TV at halftime of the Big Ten title game to plead his case.
The next morning, the Frogs were not penalized for the loss to the Wildcats. TCU was in at No. 3, where it was expected to be if it won vs. K-State.
TCU was not expected to have a chance against mighty Michigan, the program which has won more games than any in NCAA history. The Wolverines had learned from their rout at the hands of Georgia the previous year. Jim Harbaugh and his team were united and focused upon winning the Maize and Blue’s first title in 25 years.
That’s why they play the games.
TCU defeated Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl. Now it’s time to take on the Bulldogs, who will be aiming for back-to-back titles, which hasn’t been done since the playoff started in 2014.
Earlier in this rambling post, I mentioned TCU went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
In 1971, TCU hired Jim Pittman, who led Tulane to an 8-4 record and a Liberty Bowl victory vs. Colorado in 1970. Pittman had the Frogs at 5-3 heading into their 30 October game in Waco.
Late in the first quarter, Pittman collapsed on the visitors’ sideline at Baylor (later Floyd Casey) Stadium with a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Providence Hospital, but at 2003 (8:03 p.m.), he was pronounced dead. The 55-year old Pittman was a Marine Corps veteran who served during World War II, seeing action at Iwo Jima, as well as a husband and father of two sons.
Somehow, the Frogs soldiered on that evening, winning 34-27. One of TCU’s starting defensive backs was Dave McGinnis, the future coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
TCU finished 6-5 in 1971. I can’t help but think Pittman would have kept TCU on the upswing had he lived, the same as he did at Tulane.
In the next 12 seasons, the Frogs had four one-win seasons and an 0-11 campaign in 1976. There was also the tragic paralysis of running back Kent Waldrep during a 1974 game vs. Alabama in Birmingham.
I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Mississippi State in the wake of Mike Leach’s tragic death. The Bulldogs already had an uphill battle in the SEC due to its remote location and relative lack of success compared to Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee, but without one of the greatest offensive minds college football has known and a man with a personality larger than the Magnolia State, it will be that much more difficult.
With TCU headed to the national championship game and Tulane playing in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow, I can’t help but think Jim Pittman has a broad grin on his face as he watches from his cloud in heaven.
This is the worst day of the year, no matter what happened in the previous 364 or 365. The absolute freaking worst day of the year.
NEW YEAR’S EVE.
Anyone who is out tonight partying has a serious mental disease. What the FUCK is wonderful about celebrating the changing of a calendar? What, is your life magically going to be better when the last digit of the year changes from “2” to “3” at midnight? Are you going to suddenly have millions in your bank account? Are your debts going to be erased and forgotten? Are you going to lose 100 pounds if you’re obese?
HELL NO. You are the same person on the first day of January as you were on the last day of December, and you are the same person on the first day of January of the new year as you were on the first day of January of the old year.
One of the worst traditions of New Year’s Eve are marriage proposals.
My dumbass brother proposed to his controlling wife on New Year’s Eve. I knew he had problems (which is weird, since he was a straight-A student in high school and college, unlike me, who barely scraped by), but that confirmed it. This woman couldn’t keep her first marriage together, and now she has my clueless sibling on a leash shorter than what Homer puts on Santa’s Little Helper in The Simpsons.
New Year’s Eve is one of a few cliché days for proposals. The others are Christmas Eve and Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Thanksgiving to a lesser extent. What the hell is wrong with proposing on a random day, say August 13?
Another terrible tradition is the ball dropping in Times Square. WHAT THE FUCK? God bless Dick Clark, but he forced this shit down our throats beginning in 1972, and it has continued with Ryan Seacrest.
In New Orleans, some assholes have celebrated the new year by firing guns into the air. In 1994, those falling bullets killed Amy Silberman, a Boston resident who was in the French Quarter with friends. Sickening.
Resolutions are more bullshit about New Year’s Eve. Like anyone keeps them. I quit trying many, many, MANY years ago. You only hate yourself if you can’t keep it.
Dressing up for parties is asinine. Yes, by all means ladies should go out and spend $300 for a dress they won’t wear again, or a man should spend $300 to rent a tuxedo which has been worn hundreds of times and probably been puked on at least a dozen. I refuse to wear clothes someone else did. I’m very lucky I was the first born in my family so I didn’t have to wear hand-me-downs.
I have sworn I must turn in for bed by 2200 (10 pm). No ifs, ands or buts. For the second consecutive year, I will be sleeping through the NYE bullshit at the Sheraton West Des Moines.
See you next year. Your lazy blogger will be the same lazy blogger he was in 2022, but hopefully posting more often.
The Kansas State High School Activities Association determined its nine football state champions at eight different locations today. Silly. Just silly.
If KSHSAA used half a brain, it could easily get it down to three, which is still not ideal (ONE site is ideal), but three is a hell of a lot better than eight.
Hold 6-man and both 8-man divisions at one location, then three 11-man title games at two others. Who goes where could be determined by the teams in the finals. I would prefer to see 5A and 6A, the two largest classifications, split up, so the rural folks from the smaller towns can see big-city teams and vice versa.
My alma mater, Brother Martin of New Orleans, has advanced to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I SELECT semifinals.
This is the tenth season the LHSAA has operated with “select” and “non-select” divisions to determine football champions.
What’s weird is the schools play in districts like usual during the regular season, but then they are split for the playoffs, with brackerts filled based upon power ratings.
From 2013-21, the “non-select” side was much larger. “Select” schools were basically private schools, whether they were religiously affiliated or not, and a few other laboratory and charter schools.
In the largest division for “select” schools, there were only two public schools, Shreveport Byrd and Baton Rouge Scotlandville, both of which have been magnet schools for a long time.
Prior to the 2022 season, the LHSAA drastically expanded what constitutes a select school. This moved over 100 schools from non-select to select.
The Crusaders go to Lafayette Friday to play Carencro, which produced LSU All-American and longtime Patriot Kevin Faulk, who won three Super Bowl rings under Darth Belichick.
Carencro was moved to the select division this season because Lafayette Parish (county) has open enrollment for its high schools. This also applies to public schools in Caddo (Shreveport) and Rapides (Alexandria) parishes, among others.
The LHSAA also chose to reduce the number of non-select divisions from five to four. This forced many schools which play in 4A during the regular season into the highest classification for the playoffs.
Monroe Neville was the most notable school affected. The Tigers were a powerhouse for 30 seasons (1963-92) under coach Charlie Brown (Neville won a fourth in 1995 under Brown’s successor, Joe Coates), winning three titles at the top level despite having an enrollment which would have allowed them to play at a lower level.
Neville dropped from 5A to 4A in 2001 after the rise of West Monroe, which won five titles between 1993 and 2000, as well as the continued strength shown by perennial powers Ouachita and Ruston.
Neville reached the quarterfinals of Division I non-select before losing 21-10 last night at New Iberia Westgate.
Brother Martin has not reached a championship game since 1989. Its only title was in 1971, when the Crusaders defeated Catholic League archirval St. Augustine 23-0.
The Crusaders and Neville played three dramatic playoff games in the space of 368 days in 1971 and ‘72. More on that later.
A terrible side effect of the split was select schools being forced to play championship games in a stadium other than the Superdome.
The LHSAA first staged all their championship games in the Superdome in 1981. Many large schools raised hell and demanded the title games return to campus because they were losing money, but the LHSAA stuck with it, and soon nobody was clamoring for the title games to leave the home of the Saints.
If it were up to me, I would prefer all games at LSU’s Tiger Stadium. But it is ONE site. Better than Kansas!
The championships were forced out of New Orleans in 2005 due to the catastrophic damage Hurricane Katrina wreaked upon the Superdome. They were moved to the opposite end of the state at Shreveport, but returned, along with the Saints, in 2006.
In the first year of the split, all nine championship games were held over three days at the Superdome. The next year, the select schools held their title games a week earlier than the non-select, and that continued through 2016 before all nine were returned to one weekend in 2017 and 2018.
In 2019, the LHSAA ruled the select schools had to find their own championship sites for football and basketball.
The smallest select division petitioned the LHSAA to play at the Superdome and was successful.
Sadly, the other three divisions were split between Tulane, UL Lafayaette, and worst, St. Thomas More High in Lafayette, marking the first title game in a high school stadium since 1980.
STM treated the game vs. New Orleans De La Salle as another home game, not as a true championship game. Terrible.
In 2020, COVID brought all schools back to one site, but it was shifted from the Superdome to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, 65 miles south of Shreveport.
Last year, one select class played at the Superdome, two at UL Lafayette and one at Tulane.
This year, all eight title games are at the Superdome Dec. 8-10. Will it stay that way? Who knows.
The KSHSAA doesn’t get it. It never will. It’s sad to stage the state’s most important games at facilities which host junior colleges, Division II colleges and only high schools.
The KSHSAA also gave us the scourge of high school football overtime. Therefore, we will never, ever see what Brother Martin went through in the space of 18 days during the 1972 playoffs.
In my next post, I’ll go back 50 years to three games on three fields against two opponents.
LSU is getting hammered by Texas A&M. So much for the College Football Playoff.