In the midst of an unbeaten season in 1998, Tulane’s head coach Tommy Bowden and LSU director of athletics Joe Dean were guests of the New Orleans Quarterback Club.
Bowden was taking questions from the audience: “Why doesn’t LSU play Tulane in football?”
Bowden simply bent the microphone over to Dean. The crowd chuckled. The question at the time seemed relevant. Especially when the Green Wave, in 1997 and 1998, won 19 games and lost four.
Jog ahead 20 years.
Tulane director of athletics Troy Dannen said LSU and the Green Wave will not play baseball in the 2019 season. Dannen said it is likely the clubs will play one game, the Wally Pontiff Classic at the Shrine on Airline, in 2020.
The series has a rich history. The two teams have played more than 300 games. The series began in 1893. However, the hue and cry about the postponement of the series only comes from one side.
LSU and its fan base looks upon Tulane as just another in-state school. There’s only one way for Tulane to change that perception, and that is to win consistently in the three major sports.
History says that is an exceedingly high bar. Tulane has won one conference football championship since 1948. Since 2008, the school has lost at least nine football games in six times.
In men’s basketball, Tulane has only three NCAA Tournament appearances, all under head coach Perry Clark in the early ’90s.
Baseball, by far, has been the school’s most consistent sport of the three. The Green Wave made Omaha trips in 2001 and 2005 and won the American Athletic Conference title in 2015.
So, LSU moved away from Tulane in football, in men’s basketball, and now is distancing itself from the Green Wave in baseball. It may be years before the two schools play again on the Tulane campus.
Tulane should move on, too. In the early ’90s, as Clark built a nationally recognized program, I can’t remember many asking why LSU wasn’t a staple on the Tulane basketball schedule. The Green Wave was wrapped up in its own success.
Tulane’s heated rival at the time, may have been the University of New Orleans. The Privateers made NCAA appearances in 1991, 1993 and 1996.
Dannen has said on more than one occasion that Tulane has to build its own athletics history. And, he is correct.
If the Green Wave can muster sustained success, the question asked 20 years ago will be relevant again: Why isn’t LSU playing Tulane?
The answer, sadly, is because the demand simply is not there.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.