Blog Archives

Roll Green Wave

It took 126 seasons, but Tulane has won bowl games in consecutive seasons.

The Green Wave dug themselves a 13-0 hole vs. former archrival Southern Miss in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, then reeled off 30 unanswered points, while keeping the Golden Eagles off the board for the final 54 minutes.

Last year, the Wave defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in the Cure Bowl (don’t get me started) in Orlando.

Nearly all college football fans 45 or younger don’t know Tulane was a founding member of the Southeastern Conference in 1933, and played in the SEC until leaving in July 1966.

The Green Wave played in the first Sugar Bowl following the 1934 season, defeating Temple 20-14. That was three years after Tulane lost to Washington State in the Rose Bowl. Wazzu didn’t return to Pasadena until Ryan Leaf led them there in 1997.

If you are (a) younger than 75, and/or (b) not from Louisiana, raise your hand if you knew either of those facts. Put your hand down. You didn’t.

The Rose Bowl appearance is the ONE thing Tulane can claim that its in-state archrival cannot. LSU has never been to Pasadena or any bowl game in California; in fact, last year’s Fiesta Bowl win over UCF was the Bayou Bengals’ first bowl west of Dallas.

LSU thought it would be in the Rose Bowl following the 2006 season, but a series of events gave the Tournament of Roses its desired Pac-10-Big Ten match (USC 32, MIchigan 18), leaving LSU to take out its frustration on a woefully overrated Notre Dame team coached by Charlie Weis and quarterbacked by Brady Quinn in the Sugar.

Tulane won its lone SEC championship in 1949. However, the Sugar Bowl said it would take the winner of the LSU-Tulane game.

LSU went to New Orleans and hammered Tulane 21-0. The Bayou Bengals, in turn, were hammered 35-0 in the Sugar Bowl by Oklahoma, coached by Bud Wilkinson and quarterback by Darrell Royal, who won three national championships and 176 games at Texas from 1957-76.

Following 1949, Tulane became the whipping boy for the SEC’s other 11 schools. The biggest culprit was the university’s decision in 1951 to force athletes to take a full course load in core subjects, not the typical “jock” curriculum. It got so bad LSU beat Tulane 62-0 THREE times between 1958 and 1965. The first of those saw LSU scored 56 points in the second half (eat your heart out, Joe Burrow and Joe Brady) to clinch its first national championship.

Georgia Tech left the SEC after the 1963 football season. The Yellow Jackets were angry after an incident during their 1961 game with Alabama in Birmingham when Crimson Tide guard/linebacker Darwin Holt slammed both of his forearms into the face of Tech’s Chick Graning, breaking Graning’s face and causing a Grade III concussion. Tech also had the same problem of a rigorous academic curriculum (mostly engeineering) which also handicapped Tulane and Vanderbilt.

As LSU prepared to face Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1965, Tulane announced it was leaving the SEC effective at the end of the 1965-66 school year. The Bayou Bengals’ going away gift to the Green Wave gridders? The third 62-0 beatdown. At least this one (and the one in 1961) were in Baton Rouge, so most Tulane fans didn’t have to sit through it.

The Green Wave played as an independent in football from 1966 through 1995 (all other sports joined the Metropolitan Athletic Conference, or the Metro, in 1975, and again from 1989-95; Tulane was expelled from the Metro in 1985 after it shut down its men’s basketball program in the wake of point shaving). There were a few nibbles of success: 1970, when Jim Pittman led the Wave to a Liberty Bowl win over Colorado to cap a 9-3 season; 1973, when Tulane defeated LSU 14-0 for its first win over the Bayou Bengals since 1948; 1979, when the Wave opened the season by defeating Stanford in John Elway’s first collegiate game, then defeating LSU in Bayou Bengals coach Charlie McClendon’s last regular season game.

Pittman left for TCU in January 1971. Sadly, he dropped dead of a heart attack on the sideline in Waco nine months later during the Horned Frogs’ victory over Baylor.

Bennie Ellender, the coach of the 1973 team, saw his 1974 team start 5-0, only to drop the last six in the last season at Tulane Stadium. It got no better in 1975, the first season in the Superdome, and Ellender was fired following a 42-6 loss to LSU, which experienced a 4-7 season, its worst since 1956.

Larry Smith left Tulane for Arizona in December 1979. Had he stuck around, he might have been LSU’s coach. Bo Rein, hired from North Carolina State to replace McClendon six days after LSU lost to Tulane, died in a plane crash seven weeks later.

Vince Gibson, who coached Lynn Dickey at Kansas State from 1968-70, took Tulane to a bowl in 1980, the first time Tulane went to bowls in consecutive seasons. Gibson went 3-1 vs. LSU, including a 31-28 victory in Baton Rouge in 1982 over a Bayou Bengal team headed to the Orange Bowl, but he was fired.

Tulane came perilously close to shutting down its football program in early 1985. The new Green Wave coach, Mack Brown (yes, that Mack Brown) was forced to take over as athletic director for a brief period in the wake of the point shaving scandal. Brown’s first Wave team went 1-10, but in 1987, Tulane went 6-5 and played in the Independence Bowl. Following the loss to Washington, Brown went to Chapel Hill.

On the other hand, Brown’s second squad lost to Wichita State. The Shockers won only once more, then shuttered their program in January 1987.

The period from 1988-86 was one of the darkest for the Wave. Tulane bottomed out with 1-10 seasons in 1991 and ’94. In both of those seasons, the Wave hosted LSU, which was in the throes of its own woe under Curley Hallman. Neither game drew a paid attendance of 40,000 (30,000 short of capacity in the Superdome), and there may have been 25,000 at most in 1994, which was four days after Hallman was fired (he coached LSU to wins over the Wave and Arkansas after the announcement).

Tommy Bowden, Bobby’s son and Terry’s brother, took over in 1997 and turned the 2-9 of ’96 to 7-4. The next season, Tulane ran the table–admittedly against a weak schedule which did not include LSU–and defeated BYU in the Liberty Bowl to finish 12-0 and No. 7 in the final Associated Press poll. Tulane was hoping for a BCS berth in the first season of the system; however, if Kansas State could not get a BCS bid ranked #4, even after the loss to Texas A&M in the Big 12 championship game, what chance did Tulane have? Under the College Football Playoff system, Tulane would have likely played A&M or Florida as the highest-ranked Group of Five champion.

Bowden accepted the Clemson job before the Liberty Bowl, and he did not coach the Wave in Memphis. Instead, that job fell to incoming coach Chris Scelfo, who was Georgia’s quarterbacks coach under Jim Donnan. Scelfo, a New Iberia native, took Tulane to another bowl in 2002, but the Wave fell off quickly.

Then came 2005. Hurricane Katrina. Tulane was forced to play 11 games at 11 different locations due to the catastrophic damage at the Superdome. Ironically, one of those locales was Tiger Stadium, where the Wave defeated Southeastern Louisiana.

The Wave floundered shortly after returning to the Big Easy, but in 2011, Tulane earned its biggest victory in a long, long, LONG time.

It was announced Tulane would return to campus in 2014 to play in Yulman Stadium, a 30,000-seat facility which would occupy much of the footprint of the old Tulane Stadium.

The Wave needed it worse than an alcoholic needs cheap wine. By the end of their time at the Superdome, most crowds were under 10,000, and some were as low as 3,000, not enough to fill most high school stadiums in the New Orleans area.

Fittingly, Tulane’s first opponent at Yulman was Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were thrown a lifeline in 1979 with membership in the ACC. While Tulane played in Conference USA from 1995-2013 and the American Athletic Conference since 2014, the Wave has been shut out in its attempts to join a power conference.

In 2016, Tulane hired Willie Fritz, who had success at Georgia Southern.He has upgraded the Wave’s recruiting, and while Tulane will never be able to attract as many blue chippers as LSU, it is doing quite well in taking the second and third tier recruits and molding them to Fritz’s triple option offense.

Sadly, LSU and Tulane don’t play any more. Both sides are stubborn, and I see where they are coming from.

LSU’s contention is most, if not all, games should be in Baton Rouge. Tiger Stadium now seats 102,000, and Tulane will net more from a game in Death Valley than they would anywhere else. With no travel expenses, except for gas for the busses, LSU has a point.

Tulane, however, wants the series to resume being a home-and-home, or at least a two-for-one. I don’t see any way LSU would play at Yulman. The games would have to be at the :Superdome, but the Wave has a good point about that becoming a de facto LSU home game.

I find it sad LSU will play the lower level colleges from Louisiana–Southeastern, Northwestern State, McNeese, Nicholls (in 2020) and Southern (2021)–but not Tulane. I would rather LSU play two Power Five teams in non-conference if the SEC is not going to play nine conference games, but Tulane should be on the schedule no matter what.

I’ll root for the Wave, except when they play LSU. I have a soft spot for Tulane, because one of my favorite people on earth, Rebecca Hale, who taught me English during the first semester of my junior year of high school, is a huge Wave supporter and has been all her life.

I hope Rebecca was in Fort Worth today. It had to be a thrill to see the Wave make history and do it against Southern Miss, which gave Tulane so many heartaches throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

I have a strong antipathy for USM, since it was the Golden Eagles’ success under Curley Hallman which prompted then-LSU athletic director Joe Dean to lure Hallman to Baton Rouge. What Dean forgot was a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, one which was gifted to Hallman by his predecessor at USM, Jim Carmody, was leading the Golden Eagle offense.

My dissertation on Tulane football began at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek and ended at Minsky’s. In between, the Texans defeated the Bills in overtime to advance in the AFC playoffs. The Patriots are trailing the Titans 7-3 late in the first quarter, but we all know New England isn’t going to lose at home to Tennessee.

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.