On a recent local TV show, Tulane University’s director of athletics Troy Dannen detailed one of the reasons why he hired men’s basketball coach Mike Dunleavy.
“Our basketball program needed shock paddles,” said Dannen.
Twenty months into his tenure, Dannen has also hired a new football coach and baseball coach. And, the University has responded with a much larger athletic budget.
But, results have yet to follow.
Men’s and women’s basketball each won 14 games last season. Baseball won 25, and football won 5. The combined record for the four high profile sports on campus in the 2017-18 academic year was 58 wins, and 74 losses.
So, in less than two weeks, Willie Fritz kicks off his third season as the Green Wave football coach. If Fritz gets Tulane to a bowl, he can change the perception of the football program and the athletic department.
Success, this season, right now, is that critical.
The ticket buying public hasn’t bought in, yet.
A visit to the Tulane ticket website shows thousands of green dots, that is, seats that are not currently sold. In section 120, west sideline, near the 35-yard line, there are more than 300 of those dots. And, the tickets are fairly priced. For $180.25, you can see all six Tulane football home games.
The home schedule includes games against Wake Forest, Nicholls, Memphis, SMU, East Carolina and Navy.
Is that an attractive home schedule? You be the judge.
Contrast that with the 1979 Tulane six-game home schedule. It included Stanford, SMU, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and LSU.
In 40 years, TV has changed college football, dramatically. Schools, including Tulane, in the American Athletic Conference, received about $2 million last season from television. In the Southeastern Conference, that number was more than $40 million.
However, TV has a negative effect on the live gate.
Empty seats are prevalent throughout college football. The American’s contract with ESPN is great exposure for Tulane, nationally. But, there’s no question it impairs the live gate.
A lifelong Tulane fan posed this question to a reporter: “Why should I go to the game, park, walk to the stadium and sit in the heat, when I can watch all the games on my couch?”
The answer to that question, vexes many an administrator in the college game.
But, in the meantime … here are a few Olive and Blue suggestions. Return to the Superdome, once a season, to play against a high-profile opponent.
Offer the University of Texas the chance to sell 50,000 tickets to a game at the Superdome.
The American is a very good basketball league. Play those important conference home games at the Smoothie King Center.
And, invest in baseball. It is the school’s signature sport. In college baseball, Tulane can win a national championship.
And, one more. Win consistently, for many years. Do that and the most important Tulane ticket demographic will return.
That is, the home-grown fans who did not attend the university, but did support it, because it was major college sports, in our city.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarion herald.org.