By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
It was a sure sign that Tulane University is in the midst of football ascension.
There was a line to get into Yulman Stadium for last Saturday’s game against Tulsa. A lengthy line.
That was a tangible sign of progress. Thousands of fans were clad in green. Tulane was proudly displayed on their shirts and sweaters. Being a Tulane football fan was cool, again. It was great to see.
There were not 27,000-plus fans at Saturday’s game, as was announced. Sorry, that number failed the eyeball test, to paraphrase the late Saints general manager Jim Finks.
But, there may have been 20,0000 actually there.
Yes, it was a beautiful fall day, and, yes, it was homecoming for the Green Wave. But, those two occurrences have happened since Yulman Stadium opened in 2014, and there was not this level of interest.
When Tulane defeated Tulsa, the Green Wave was bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons. Being able to claim that moniker with three games to play is a big step forward.
The college football RPI, which uses strength of schedule as a barometer along with the win-loss record, had Tulane ranked 58th after the games played the first weekend in November. Tulane’s ranking was higher than seven SEC teams, including Ole Miss and Arkansas.
Tulane’s three losses were on the road to highly ranked RPI teams, including Auburn (No. 10), Memphis (No. 18) and Navy (No. 24). The record of those three teams is a gaudy 22-4.
The American Athletic Conference’s RPI, as a league, was higher than the Pac 12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For not only years but for decades, much of Louisiana’s talented recruiting classes who didn’t pledge to LSU played their college football out of state.
A Tulane football star, who played for the Green Wave in the ’90s and later played in the NFL, asked a reporter a question: “Why don’t those kids consider Tulane?”
The reporter responded pointedly: “They don’t win, and even worse, there is no commitment.”
Well, one of those negatives has changed, and perhaps the other is changing. The public perception of Tulane football is changing, too.
By no means has Tulane football arrived. Willie Fritz has built a solid program, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
There is no tipping point, yet. That comes when the school wins a conference title and becomes a frequent occupant of the Top 25.
But Green Wave football is on the come. The long lines outside Yulman say so.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.