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Half-hearted rivalries 

In this morning’s Kansas City Star, there was an article with comments from former University of Missouri president R. Bowen Loftin about the possibility of the Tigers resuming their athletic series with the University of Kansas. 

Kansas and Missouri began their football series in 1891, only 30 years after Kansas became the 34th state. The Tigers and Jayhaks played 120 times, making it the oldest NCAA Division I rivalry west of the Mississippi River. FYI, the oldest NCAA football series is Lehigh vs. Lafayette, which bgan in 1884.

Loftin stated only one reason why Mizzou and Kansas have not played since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference in 2012.

Bill Self.

Loftin blamed Self, the Jayhawks’ men’s basketball coach who will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, for not wanting to play Mizzou, at least in football and men’s basketball. In recent years, Mizzou has reached out numerous times to Kansas about playing football games at Arrowhead Stadium and basketball games at Sprint Center, but each time, the Jyayhawks have said no way. 

Self, of course, denied Loftin’s premise. He emphatically stated he had nothingt to do with football scheduling. 

Loftin speaks from experience about dormant rivalries. In 2012, he was president at Texas A&M when the Aggies joined Mizzou in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. A&M wanted to continue its rivalry with Texas, but the Longhorns refused. 

In his comments, Loftin believed the Longhorns and Aggies would continue their rivalry before the Tigers and Jayhawks do. 

I know about in-state rivlaries going dormant, but Louisiana really isn’t comparable to Texas, or to Missouri-Kansas, either. Tulane has never really been at LSU’s level, and the gulf has continually widened since the Green Wave dropped out of the SEC in 1966. LSU discontinued its annual rivalry with Tulane on the gridiron after the 1994 season; the teams played four consecutive years from 2006-2009, but LSU then bought out the remaining six games on the contract. In men’s basketball, Dale Brown dropped Tulane in 1981 because he felt the Greenies were non-competitive. Tulane dropped its program for three years in the 1980s due to a point shaving scandal, but the Tigers refused to play Tulane until 2003, seven seasons after Brown retired. LSU and Tulane only compete in women’s basketball and baseball, as well as a few minor sports. 

As much as I’d like to see LSU and Tulane play every year in football, Tulane must shoulder a lot of the blame. Why not play in Baton Rouge every year, or four out of every five years? The Greenies are going to make far more in Tiger Stadium than they ever will at Tulsa, SMU, East Carolina or another American Athletic Conference school, and certainly much, much more than playing at UL Lafayette or Louisiana Tech. As for LSU, it would be much more financially prudent to play Tulane than to pay Troy or Chattanooga an exorbitant sum to come to Death Valley as it is doing this season. It would have been much better in 2017 becuase LSU has only six home games, since the Florida game was switched to Gainesville after last season’s Hurricane Matthew flap. 

On the flip side, if Tulane wants LSU to come to New Orleans, it is going to (a) have to give LSU a larger cut of the gate and (b) play in the Superdome. Yulman Stadium only seats 30,000. I understand the idea of playing on campus, but in this case, it would be unreasonable for LSU to do so. If Tulane is worried about LSU fans overrunning the Superdome, then that’s too bad.

LSU has tried to make too many other SEC schools their “rival”, but the other school would not reciprocate. The series with Ole Miss has largely been irrelvant since Johnny Vaught retired as Rebel coach in 1970 (save for a brief return in 1973). Alabama could care less about beating LSU unless the Tigers are at or near the top of the polls. As Bear Bryant put it, “I’d rather beat the cow college (Auburn) once than Notre Dame ten times”. Nick Saban has turned this so-called rivalry into a laugher. Auburn and LSU didn’t play every year in football until 1992, and Auburn might be going to the Eastern Division anyway. 

LSU has played Arkansas for the Golden Boot since 1996, but the Tigers resisted it with every fiber of their being until then-SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer finally prevailed upon LSU to play along.  The game has always meant much more in Fayetteville than in Baton Rouge.

Back to the Border War. 
Kansas’ non-conference football schedule this season is an out and out JOKE. Southeast Missouri, Central Michigan, Ohio University. The game vs. the Bobcats is in Athens, Ohio, which is a coup by Ohio coach Frank Solic in getting a Power Five school to travel to Athens and play a Mid-America Conference school. 

The trip to Ohio begs the question: why not play Missouri at Arrowhead and get a huge gate? It would be mutually beneficial. It would allow Mizzou to fulfill the SEC requirement to play a Power Five opponent in non-conference, and Kansas would not have to embarrass itself playing a lower level team like SEMO. 

I cannot say for sure Self is personally responsible for Kansas not wanting to play Mizzou. But the Jayhawks are wrong on this one. Why would Kansas pass up a chance to play in Kansas City, only 45 minutes from its campus, to go to places like Ohio U and Memphis? 

The Texas-Texas A&M series is not something I’m really worried about. Texas has enough in-state rivals (Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU) in the Big 12, and A&M is content making Arkansas and LSU its big rivalry games. 

In the grand scheme, it’s only college sports. It could be worse. The fact the Jets and Giants play only once every four years in the regular season is sad. The NFL is missing the boat. 

Thoughts from a barstool

Back at Buffalo Wild Wings this afternoon. Been here since 12:35. I saw my buddy Larry for the first time in a long time. Trey, whom I’ve seen here since I first came here in May 2013, is bartending. I’m sure I’ll see a few more people I know before I leave.

I had to get work done on my car this morning in Overland Park. Didn’t have to wait at Morse-McCarthy Chevrolet this time nearly as long as I did the last two times, when I had new tires put on. Stopped at Staples and Bed, Bath & Beyond before heading north. 

I was thinking about coming back tomorrow and leaving Sunday morning, but there is an 80 percent chance of rain for tomorrow night and Sunday, so I’m going to get out of here tomorrow. The cold front will pass through Russell tomrorow night, and hopefully, that will be it for temperatures above 80 Fahrenheit, or 27 Celsius, until at least April. I do not like hot weather. 

I’m probably going to be back to Kansas City sooner rather than later. Maybe I come back next weekend to watch the Missouri-LSU football game. Or maybe I come back for my birthday in less than three weeks. I can’t stay away. Too many people I want to see. 

LSU plays Auburn tomorrow night on the road. The Bayou Bengals have traditionally struggled at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but if they lose tomorrow, LSU may be in the market for a new coach after the season. I could see the season unraveling if Auburn wins tomororw. WIth road games against Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M, plus home dates with Ole Miss and Alabama, it could get ugly fast in Baton Rouge. 

Kansas does not play tomorrow. Kansas State might as well not play. Another cupcake, Missouri State, visits Manhattan. Bill Snyder can’t get enough cupcakes. Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines could make a killing sponsoring Kansas State football. 

How much does Snyder fear playing strong teams? When he was hired at K-State in 1989, he canceled the second game of a home-and-home series with Tulane. 

Not making it up. I said TULANE.

K-State played in 1980 at LSU. However, that was a one-time deal so the Wildcats could infuse their coffers with much-needed cash. No way LSU was going to play a game in a stadium which seated 42,000, unless it was an SEC game. Certainly not vs. the worst team in the Big Eight. Certainly not when LSU had four games vs. Florida State lined up from 1980-83, four with Notre Dame (1981, 1984-86),  contests with Washington, Arizona and USC, and a home-and-home with Ohio State later in the decade, not to mention the annual game vs. Tulane. 

The Green Wave defeated the Wildcats 20-16 in New Orleans in 1988. Coach Stan Parrish was fired following an 0-11 season, part of a 30-game winless streak. Tulane, which was an independent at the time, was scheduled to make a return visit to Manhattan, but Snyder canceled the game and picked up some team which was weaker than the Greenies, which took a lot of searching. Tulane won all of 23 games between 1988 and 1995. 

I can’t believe MIssissippi State and Oklahoma have agreed to play Tulane in the New Orleans in coming years. I can’t imagine the Bulldogs or Sooners playing at Tulane’s on-campus stadium, which seats only 30,000. I believe the visitors, not to mention television, will insist the games be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the Wave played from 1975 through 2013, save for 2005, when the Dome was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. 

Tulane cut its own throat when it foolishly voted to leave the SEC in 1966. The Green Wave might have been at or near the bottom of the conference in football every single year, but it would have made money hand over fist. 

Vanderbilt, a private school in a large city like Tulane, chose to stay and take their punishment from Tennessee, Alabama and others. But the money the Commodores have raked in from the SEC have made sure the school’s academic mission continues to be funded at the highest possible level, while athletes get to compete against elite institutions. 

Bayou Bengals and Greenies again

LSU’s baseball team travels to New Orleans tonight to renew one of only two athletic series it maintains with one-time Southeastern Conference rival Tulane. 

The Bayou Bengals and Green Wave met on the gridrion every year between 1919 and 1994. The men’s basketball teams played regularly until 1983, when LSU coach Dale Brown discontinued it after Tulane insisted on playing its home games in its cramped bandbox areana on campus instead of the Superdome, where Bayou Bengal fans outnumbered Green Wave fans 15 to 1. 

The football series didn’t matter to LSU nearly as much after Tulane left the SEC in July 1966. Besides, the state school from Baton Rouge dominated the series to the point where the Green Wave were at best outclassed and at worst noncompetitive, as evidneced by three 62-0 losses in eight seasons between 1958 and 1965. 

Tulane kept demanding LSU play home-and-home. LSU said no, because they should not have to give up a large gate at Tiger Stadium to play in front of a half-empty Superdome. 

The blame for the end of the series rests with the Tulane alumni. They are the ones demanding LSU play in New Orleans. Tulane’s adminiatration probably realizes it would make more playing in Baton Rouge than it could anywhere else since there would be no travel expenses, and LSU’s stadium seats 102,000. Even if Tulane were given just 20 percent of the gate, that’s $750,000 minimum. 

The baseball series has always been played, but it began to take on a special intensity in May 1986. 

That season, Tulane had its best team up until that time. The Green Wave built a strong record by playing a national schedule (Tulane had been expelled from the Metro Conference after a point shaving scandal shut down the men’s basketball program) and was rewarded with a berth in the NCAA South II Regional.

LSU was even better than Tulane in 1986. In his third season as skipper, Skip Bertman had built a budding dynasty, one which won its first 18 games and eventually rolled to the SEC championship by going 22-5 in the league. The Bayou Bengals were ranked first for much of the season and earned the right to host a regional for the first time. 

To the delight of sports fans across Louisiana, LSU and Tulane reached the championship round, disposing of Eastern Kentucky, Jackson State, Loiuisiana Tech and Oklahoma. The Green Wave lost earlier in the tournament to Tech, while the Bayou Bengals defeated Jackson State, Oklahoma and Tech, meaning Tulane had to beat LSU twice to reach the College World Series. 

Tulane looked like it just might do that. They held the lead for most of the game and were on their way to forcing a second winner-take-all title game when the Bayou Bengals roared to life. 

LSU came back to take a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth–the Bayou Bengals were the visiting team–when Mother Nature intervened.

As she is prone to do on a south Louisiana day in late May, Mother Nature unleashed her wrath on Alex Box Stadium. 

Not only did the field quickly become unplayable, many areas of the field became submerged. The game was suspended until the next day, Memorial Day.

LSU called in helicopters from Acadian Ambulance to dry the field, and by noon, it was ready to go. 

The Bayou Bengals held on to their 7-6 lead and were on their way to Omaha. They would go on to win five national championships under Bertman, and four more times (1987, 1994, 1996, 1998) LSU won a regional which also invovlved Tulane. 

Then came the first three days of June 2001. 

Bertman announced in July 2000, a month after winning the fifth national title with a dramatic victory over Stanford, the 2001 season would be his last. To help him go out on top, LSU aggressively recruited junior college stars and those at four-year schools looking to transfer.

Tulane also was a national power in 2001. In contrast to Bertman, Green Wave coach Rick Jones had built his team largely through recruiting high school players. Tulane is an academically stringent university, and while most of Jones’ players made the grade, a few were admitted with lower guidelines in place for select athletes. 

LSU and Tulane were locks to host regionals by mid-April. By the first week of May, the question was, could both also host super regionals, the best-of-three series for regional winners which was added in 1999 to determine the eight schools which went to Omaha? 

That’s when LSU’s season went totally south. 

The Bayou Bengals were ranked No. 1 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll following a three-game sweep at Alabama. Next up was a trip to Arkansas, which was mired in the SEC West basement for the second consecutive year and carried a spectacularly inept 4-19 conference record into the series with league leading LSU.

When the Bayou Bengals left Fayetteville, LSU was now the proverbial Sisyphus. 

The Razorbacks swept the series. Auburn then came to Baton Rouge and won two of three to close the regular season. LSU reached the SEC Tournament final, but the NCAA did not deem it worthy of hosting a super regoinal.

Tulane, however, did get the nod. If it could survive its regional at its on-campus Turchin Stadium, it would host the next round at Zephyr Field, the Triple-A stadium in the western suburb of Metairie. 

Both LSU and Tulane won their regionals, so it came down to three games between the anicent rivals for a trip to Omaha.

The Bayou Bengals won game one 5-4 in 13 innings. It would be the 870th–and last–victory of Bertman’s 18-year tenure at LSU.

The Green Wave roared back and won the next two games 7-1 and 9-4 to clinch their first CWS berth. 

The rivalry has cooled a bit since Tulane has fallen off, but this year, the Green Wave got off to a fast start and thus are chomping at the bit to get at LSU.