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Georgia, Alabama, and about 130 wannabes: college football in 2023 and beyond

I knew I wouldn’t get far in my quest to post something on this blog every day. I should not put pressure like that on myself.
I went to bed early last night. I did not watch a single down of the College Football Playoff championship game.
Good thing I didn’t.
Georgia destroyed TCU 65-7 to successfully defend its championship. The Bulldogs claimed their fourth title (1942 and 1980 were their others prior to last year) and prompted many of the “experts” on television to proclaim (a) Georgia is the new superpower of college football, supplanting Alabama, and (b) Georgia coach Kirby Smart is the best in the game, surpassing his mentor, Nick Saban, who has won a record seven championships (the first at LSU in 2003, then six at Alabama between 2009 and 2020).

Alabama would have made the playoff had they beaten either Tennessee or LSU. The Crimson Tide would have been in the SEC championship, even if they lost to LSU (the Bayou Bengals’ choke vs. Texas A&M would have sent Alabama to Atlanta had the Tide defeated Tennessee). It would have mattered not had Alabama won or lost vs. Georgia, because there’s no way the committee would have put BOTH TCU and Ohio State ahead of the Tide.
The Tide would have been the No. 3 seed and played Michigan in one semifinal. Georgia would have played either Ohio State or TCU, whichever got in. Then it would have been Alabama-Georgia in the title game for the third time since 2017.
As long as Nicholas Lou Saban is leading his machine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will win big. When your fans, players and coaches consider 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl rout of Big 12 champion Kansas State to be a down year, you’re doing a hell of a lot right.
I find Saban’s sideline behavior to be unacceptable at times, but the man can recruit, and the man has the right ideas, such as getting rid of cupcakes on the schedule. Unfortunately for Saban, he is not in complete control at Tuscaloosa the way Bear Bryant was. The Tide will not have a non-conference schedule of Nebraska, Missouri, USC and Washington the way Alabama did in 1978. Not anytime soon at least.
Greg Byrne will continue to demand at least one of those patsies come to Tuscaloosa every year. However, I don’t understand why Alabama won’t invite Jacksonville State, Troy, UAB and South Alabama to Bryant-Denny. It’s not worth it to play New Mexico State, Kent State (that being Saban’s alma mater notwithstanding) and UMass when there are four FBS schools within 200 miles of Tuscaloosa.

Georgia’s non-conference schedule for 2023 is an absolute joke. Yes, I am aware the SEC cancelled the Bulldogs’ scheduled game vs. Oklahoma because of the Sooners’ impending move to the SEC, but Greg McGarrity could have found someone tougher than Ball State to fill that spot. UAB and Tennessee-Martin, an FCS program, also go between the hedges next year. Georgia’s season ender at Georgia Tech should also be a walk, especially since the Bulldogs haven’t lost at Grant Field since 1999, when Smart was one year removed from his final season as a Georgia defensive back.

The Bulldogs have cemented their status as one of the three or four programs which should be expected to make the playoff every year, along with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
Those writing off Dabo Swinney are way, way, WAY too early to be doing that. The Tigers will rule the ACC for as long as Swinney is on the sideline in northwest South Carolina. Florida State is the only major threat I can see to the Tigers’ dominance. North Carolina is too inconsistent, and will be looking for a new coach soon, as Mack Brown is 72. Miami can’t get it together. Virginia Tech has bottomed out. Pitt and North Carolina State will have good years from time to time, but never string them together. Duke and Wake Forest have done well considering their rigorous academics and limited enrollment, but I don’t see it as sustainable.
There is no reason Clemson should not be 12-0 or 11-1 every year heading into the ACC championship. If that’s the case, the Tigers only have to win the championship game to go to the playoff when it expands in two years.
Oklahoma was once a playoff regular, but the Sooners took a major step back after Lincoln Riley left for USC and took Caleb Williams, among others, with him to Los Angeles. The Sooners will find the sledding much tougher when they join the SEC in either 2024 or ’25.
The Big 12 will be wide open once Oklahoma and Texas leave. Baylor, Houston, TCU and Texas Tech should always be in the running, considering just how talent-rich Texas is. Oklahoma State should get it back on track under Mike Gundy. As much as it pains me to say it, Kansas State found the right coach in Chris Klieman.
How will BYU adjust to the rigors of nine games vs. Power Five opponents in conference, and an occasional one vs. Utah? The Cougars have as rich a tradition as anyone left in the Big 12, but let’s see how it plays out.
Michigan has made it in back-to-back seasons, but if Jim Harbaugh leaves for the NFL, does that last? Also, the Wolverines and Buckeyes still have to deal with Penn State in the Big Ten right now, and with USC and UCLA on the horizon, it should only get tougher. The Big Ten is getting rid of divisions when the California teams join, which will be a big relief for Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, but could be a nightmare for Nebraska and Northwestern.

I did not mention the Pac-12 in the last section.
I don’t know how much longer the Pac-12 (which will revert to Pac-10 once the LA schools depart) can hold up. Adding UNLV, Fresno St. and San Diego St. isn’t going to bring much to the table. Adding Gonzaga as a basketball-only member won’t cut it, either.
The rumors are everyone except Oregon State and Washington State should have a place to land if the conference dissolves. The Big 12 is looking at going to 16 by adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, and of course bringing back Colorado. California, Stanford, Oregon and Washington will get into a power conference some way, some how. All four could join the Big Ten and make it 20, which could lead to a split for sports outside of football and basketball. It is not fair to ask students at Maryland and Rutgers to spend a week on the west coast, or vice versa.
It would be a crying shame if Oregon State and Washington State get dumped into the Mountain West. Nothing against the Mountain West, but the administrations in Corvallis and Pullman have invested way too much time and money into keeping up with the powers in Eugene and Seattle, not to mention LA and the Bay Area.
Somewhere, Mike Leach is pleading with the Good Lord to save the Coogs from purgatory. Dee Andros and Ralph Miller are probably doing the same for the Beavers.

As it stands now, at least one conference champion from outside the Power 5 will earn automatic entry to the CFP once it expands.
Tulane has the opportunity to be that team on a consistent basis.
The Green Wave should be picked no lower than third next year in the American Athletic Conference. Willie Fritz has committed to Tulane, something Larry Smith, Mack Brown and Tommy Bowden did not. I’m surprised Georgia Tech did not pursue Fritz harder, given his success in New Orleans and his ties to the Peach State at Georgia Southern.
Problem is, if Tulane keeps winning, it’s going to be that much harder to keep Fritz.
Before going to Statesboro, he coached at Sam Houston State, which lies in the shadow of Texas’ death row in Huntsville.
If Texas A&M becomes tired of Jimbo Fisher’s mediocrity and is willing to pay his asinine buyout, Aggie boosters will almost certainly be crossing the Sabine River and headed straight for the Big Easy. Texas is always a volatile situation until the Longhorns prove they can win at Darrell Royal/Mack Brown levels on a consistent basis. Will the SEC lure Dave Aranda away from Baylor?
Tulane football is at its highest point since the spring of 1949, when it was coming off a 46-0 rout of LSU in Death Valley to close the 1948 season 9-1. If you read my post from Jan. 2, you’ll know the Wave was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1949 before losing badly in South Bend, coming back to win the SEC championship, only to lose the Sugar Bowl bid when they were flattened 21-0 by LSU in New Orleans. Tulane didn’t sniff another bowl until 1970.
In the Mountain West, Boise State should be a yearly contender, as should Fresno State. San Diego State could be if it doesn’t bolt for the Pac-12. Air Force has done quite well for decades under Troy Calhoun and his predecessor, Fisher DeBerry, but the Falcons don’t have the “big uglies”, as Keith Jackson used to say, along the lines. That, plus the rigors of military training and the commitment following graduation drive many young men away from Colorado Springs, West Point and Annapolis.
Speaking of the academies, without a conference, Army’s chances are next to zero. The Black Knights would have to catch lightning in a bottle, or reincarnate Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard in 1945-46 form.
Navy is in a conference, but is far behind Tulane, SMU and Memphis in the American. Firing Ken Niumatalolo and replacing him from within was a very dumb move by athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who made a similar faux pas at Tulane in the early 1990s by bringing in Buddy Teevens from Dartmouth. Teevens is a hell of a nice guy, but he was overmatched at the top level. After a brief failed stint at Stanford, Teevens returned to New Hampshire and has the Big Green back to its familiar perch at or near the top of the Ivy League.

I saw Smart play for the Bulldogs on the evening of 3 October 1998, when Georgia came to Death Valley for a highly-anticipated matchup with LSU, which was ranked sixth in the AP poll following wins over Arkansas State, Auburn and Idaho.
The talk around Baton Rouge was if the Bayou Bengals prevailed, they were automatically contenders for the first BCS championship, and Gerry DiNardo would take his place alongside Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon as the greatest LSU coach ever.
Smart, wearing No. 16, was overshadowed that evening by future Pro Football Hall of Famer, who played nearly the entire game on defense AND offense, and quarterback Quincy Carter, who made play after play to keep Georgia afloat.
With the game hanging in the balance and the Bulldogs ahead 28-27, Bailey made an acrobatic catch on a deep ball down the left sideline to clinch victory.
LSU went into total freefall after Georgia returned to Athens.
The Bayou Bengals won only one of their next seven games to finish 4-7. They got worse in 1999, starting 2-0 before losing eight straight.
On 15 November 1999, Gerry DiNardo was fired by LSU chancellor Mark Emmert, who heroically took the coaching search reins from cheapskate athletic director Joe Dean, who did all he could to keep DiNardo around for 2000.
Fifteen days after DiNardo was booted, Emmert introduced LSU’s new coach, Nick Saban. The rest is history. Mostly good.

Once again, I’ve rambled on. I’ll stop. Thanks again for reading.

Green Wave crests

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.

Good night.

LSU and Tulane go head-to-head…sadly not on the same field

Camping World Stadium in Orlando and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas are 1,780 kilometers (1,106) miles apart. It will take at least 17 hours driving to get from one to the other.
In less than three hours, two universities whose football stadiums are a mere 132 km (81 miles) apart will be playing simultaneously in bowl games.
Tulane, located in a upper-class residential section of New Orleans, will play Southern California (USC; DON’T call them Southern Cal) in the Cotton Bowl at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, while LSU, nestled along the Mississippi River at the southwest edge of Baton Rouge, will face Purdue in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.
This is the first time LSU and Tulane are playing in bowl games on the same day. Of course, ESPN and ABC would put them on against each other at noon Central.

Tulane is enjoying one of its finest seasons ever. The Wave went to Manhattan (the little one) and defeated eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State, then went on to win the American Athletic Conference championship, defeating Central Florida in a rematch from the regular season won by the Knights.
Last year, Tulane went 2-10 in a season severely disrupted by the August landfall of Hurricane Ida. The Category 4 storm forced the Wave to move its highly anticipated opener vs. Oklahoma from New Orleans to Norman. Tulane then spent several weeks living and practicing in Birmingham, and one home game had to be moved there.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction by firing coach Willie Fritz, athletic director Troy Dannen reiterated his unwavering support for Fritz, and that faith has paid off handsomely.
Strangely, this will not be the first bowl game between Tulane and USC. The Trojans defeated the Wave 21-12 in the Rose Bowl following the 1931 season. A Rose Bowl appearance is one thing Tulane can claim and LSU cannot.
LSU enjoyed a solid first season under Brian Kelly, who surprisingly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons to clean up the mess left in the wake of Ed Orgeron’s unseemly departure. The Bayou Bengals bounced back from an opening loss to Florida State (the Seminoles won 24-23 by blocking an extra point on the game’s final play) and a 40-13 shellacking at home vs. Tennessee to earn a trip to the SEC championship games, with big wins over Ole Miss and Alabama, LSU’s first over the Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge in 12 years.
The Bayou Bengals need a win vs. the Boilermakers to avoid a three-game losing streak. After rising to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff poll, LSU was hammered by Texas A&M in College Station, then overwhelmed by Georgia in the SEC title game. The losses knocked the Bayou Bengals out of trips to the Sugar, Orange or Cotton Bowls and instead to the Citrus Bowl for the fourth time since 2009. Ironically, the last time LSU played in this bowl, it lost 21-17 to Kelly’s Fighting Irish.
Had LSU not lost to A&M, it more than likely would have ended up playing Tulane in Arlington.
Sadly, it will take a bowl game to revive this series, barring a miracle.

The Green Wave and Bayou Bengals used to have a spirited gridiron rivalry. It was played continuously from 1919 and 1994, but sadly, it has been played only six times since, the last in 2009.
As an LSU alum and New Orleans native who attended numerous Tulane games growing up in New Orleans, I am very angry about this. I am especially pissed LSU sees fit to play the lower-level in-state schools–McNeese State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls, Southern and Grambling–but refuses to consider playing Tulane.
It is inexcusable LSU will only play the four Division I FBS schools in the state–Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech–only occasionally, if at all, yet will fork over huge sums of cash to prop up the smaller schools, especially when one is only 132 km to the east and the other is only 80 km to the west.
This past September, LSU played Southern, which is 18 km (11 miles) north on the other side of Baton Rouge. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a notorious LSU booster, and many others praised the meeting of the cross-town rivals on the gridiron.
I thought it was asinine.
I’m not opposed to LSU playing Southern and other smaller in-state schools in baseball and softball. There are more than enough games in those sports to allow room for those games while still being able to schedule larger non-conference opponents.
In basketball, LSU should attempt to schedule one or two per season, but also need to attempt to play higher-caliber foes. Should LSU’s men play Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan State and North Carolina in the same season? No. However, LSU’s non-conference schedules have been laughable to pitiful since Dale Brown’s retirement 26 years ago.
That said, LSU and Southern should not be playing on the same football field. Neither should LSU and Southeastern, LSU and McNeese, LSU and Northwestern St. (a game vs. the Big Ten’s Northwestern would be fine, but there could be no home-and-home due to the Wildcats’ stadium in Evanston being less than half the size of Tiger Stadium, unless it were moved to wherever the Bears are playing), LSU vs. Nicholls and LSU vs. Grambling.
LSU and Tulane should be happening every year, or barring that, at least once every three years.

In 2014, Tulane opened Yulman Stadium, a 30,000-seat facility which occupies largely the same footprint as the legendary Tulane Stadium, which stood from 1926 until its demolition near the end of 1979. The 80,000-seat steel behemoth hosted 41 Sugar Bowls from January 1935 through December 1974, three Super Bowls (IV, VI and IX) and 56 Saints home games.
Tulane moved to Superdome in 1975, and the Green Wave’s crowds, already small by southern standards, fell precipitously, except for games vs. LSU and the occasional matchup with a national power.
The LSU-Tulane game at New Orleans sold out in most years between 1975 and ’87 (the Dome hosted the game in odd-numbered years in that era), but by 1994, the last year of the annual series, less than 33,000 came to Poydras Street to watch LSU, led by lame-duck coach Curley Hallman, defeat the Wave 49-25.
LSU athletic director Joe Dean, a notorious cheapskate, demanded Tulane give up the home-and-home if it wanted to continue the series. The Green Wave stood their ground, and thus the series terminated after 1994, with single games in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Only the 2007 game was played in New Orleans.
Dean was ruinous for LSU athletics with his cheapness. Had it not been for five baseball national championships from 1991-2000 and numerous track and field titles, both men and women, the years Dean was athletic director (1987-2000) would have been worse than they were. Of course, Dean inherited baseball coach Skip Bertman, his future successor as athletic director, and track had long been a power before he hired Pat Henry.
Thankfully, then-LSU chancellor Mark Emmert told Dean to shut up in November 1999 after Dean’s buddy, Gerry DiNardo, was fired as football coach. Emmert took charge and got the deal done with Nick Saban.

I understand the desire of Green Wave fans to want to play LSU home-and-home.
However, Tulane boosters should seriously consider just how much better the athletic budget would be if the Wave plays every year in Baton Rouge, where there are 70,000 more seats.
Tulane would not only make a substantial gate playing in Tiger Stadium, much more than it would make for a home game or a road game against a non-Power 5 program, it would only have to pay travel expenses for bus rental to and from Baton Rouge. Even if it wanted to stay in Baton Rouge the night before the game, there would be no expense for a charter flight.
If LSU is to play in New Orleans, the game has to be in the Superdome.
Tulane is scheduled to play Ole Miss (2023), Kansas State (2024), Northwestern and Duke (2025) and Iowa State (2029) at Yulman. I’m surprised the Rebels agreed to this. I was shocked Oklahoma agreed to play Tulane on campus and not at the Superdome before Ida changed everything.
LSU is a different animal than most.
It would not be fair to the Bayou Bengals to play the game in a 30,000-seat stadium, not when LSU could bring many more fans than that and ensure a sellout at the Superdome, which would mean more for the bottom line for both schools.
If I were calling the shots, I would offer Tulane a three-for-one contract for 12 years–three games in Baton Rouge for every one in New Orleans. I would also be open to two-for-one.

I hope and pray LSU vs. Tulane returns to the gridiron before I pass. I’m asking too much, aren’t I?
I’m going to be rooting hard for both my alma mater and the Wave today. I have special interest in Tulane since a dear friend of mine, Rebecca Hale, is a passionate Wave booster. She taught me one semester of English during my junior year at Brother Martin High, and she quickly became one of my favorite teachers ever. We got back in touch four years ago, and it has been gratifying.

Roll 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.