Local coach, Johnson, is a good hire for Tulane

Ed Daniels    There’s a lot to like about new Tulane coach Curtis Johnson.
    The Saints’ wide receivers coach was an assistant on a Super Bowl championship team. He’s a New Orleans native. And, he’s recruited this area quite successfully. Marshall Faulk (San Diego State) and Reggie Wayne and Ed Reed (Miami) were all Johnson “gets.”
    Many Tulanians are unhappy that the school was unable to make “a big splash” by luring Rich Rodriguez, who instead chose Arizona. Or by landing Mike Leach, who chose Washington State.
    My thinking is the big splash is very much overrated.
    Rewind back to the spring of 2010. Tulane offered its head basketball job to then-Robert Morris coach Mike Rice. Rice had ended a 17-year drought for the school with back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament.
    Rice turned the job down, and Tulane hired Ed Conroy from The Citadel. In Conroy’s second season, Tulane’s talent level has clearly improved. A college basketball coach told me recently, “Tulane has the right guy in Conroy. He’s not only a very good coach but a solid guy.”
    Conroy was not a “big splash.”
    This latest Tulane hire is about Curtis Johnson, but it is also about something much more. Will the entire university get behind its football program and make it successful?
    The new on-campus football stadium will provide an initial boost. The stadium will likely be filled for much of its first season, as Tulane celebrates its first on campus football games since the 1974 season.
    But, at some point, just like at Zephyr Field in the late ’90s, the novelty will wear off. And, the product will be the story.
    When you talk about commitment, consider this. On the recent trip to play the University of Hawaii, half the squad flew out on Tuesday, the other half on Wednesday. Frankly, I can’t imagine that happening in the SEC or any other BCS league.
    If you want to be considered relevant, you have to act like it.
    So, there are several questions to be answered.
    Will Johnson have the financial freedom to lure quality assistants? Will Tulane provide Johnson the recruiting budget to compete at a high level?
    Johnson has to be able to do the following:
    A recruit in Shreveport is deciding between Tulane and a BCS school. Johnson has offered the chance to compete for a starting job immediately. The recruit is struggling with his decision.
    What the head coach of the Tulane Green Wave needs to do is go to Lakefront airport, hop on a chartered jet and convince the recruit to commit to Tulane.
    This scenario happens frequently in BCS leagues. The good recruiters often close the deal.
    And, then there’s the biggest question of them all. A Tulanian told me recently, “Don’t you think for us in football, it is now or never?”
    Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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