Ida robs Tulane of biggest game in decades
There is bad luck, there is rotten luck and there is Tulane luck.
The OU-Tulane football game, scheduled for Saturday down in New Orleans, has been moved to Norman, courtesy of Hurricane Ida, which blacked out New Orleans on Sunday with a torrential storm. Hard to play a football game when not a single light switch works in a major-league metro and when people need rescued from their attics.
There’s no such thing as good timing for a hurricane. But this was the worst possible timing for Tulane football: One week before the Green Wave’s biggest home game in at least 14 years and maybe in 29 years.
Mid-majors like Tulane rarely get a prestigious program like OU onto campus. The Sooners occasionally venture away from home against an opponent outside a Power 5 Conference. But when they do, it’s almost always at a National Football League stadium. Houston in NRG Stadium in 2016. Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium in 2010. Brigham Young at JerryWorld in 2009.
The Sooners do occasionally play at Tulsa (2014, 2007, 2002, 1987), but that’s mostly a salute-to-the-state series.
OU was scheduled to play at Army last season, but the game was wiped out by Covid. Now the Tulane trip is wiped out by a hurricane. The gods are against it.
But from 1996 through 2001, OU played four road games at mid-majors’ stadiums: Air Force 2001, Louisville 1999, Texas Christian 1998 (though that series might have been scheduled when TCU was in the Southwest Conference) and San Diego State 1996.
Meanwhile, Tulane was poised to host the biggest game in Yulman Stadium history.
The Green Wave moved into its nice, new home in 2014, after 39 seasons in the Louisiana Superdome. The Superdome remains the home of the NFL Saints, but it was a dismal place for Tulane, with empty seats dominating the landscape.
Yulman Stadium, with a capacity of 30,000, is perfect for Tulane. And the Green Wave has drawn some Power 5 opponents to play on campus. Georgia Tech, Duke, Wake Forest. Scheduled in the years to come are Ole Miss,
Mississippi State, Kansas State, Northwestern, Duke and Iowa State.
But not Louisiana State. The LSUTulane rivalry died as an annual affair after the 1994 season. The Tigers have played Tulane in New Orleans one time since – 2007, in the Superdome.
That LSU team won the national title, by the way, and so did Alabama in 1992, a year the Crimson Tide played Tulane in the Superdome. And Clemson, too, in 1981, after playing Tulane in New Orleans.
OU was hoping to capture the same Tulane magic.
And Tulane was hoping to cash in on a big-time opponent. The Sooners on the schedule allowed Tulane to increase season-ticket sales — the Green Wave did not sell single-game OU tickets, beyond the allotment given to the Sooners.
Now, of course, that marketing is ruined. Who knows if OU-Tulane will be rescheduled for New Orleans down the road, though Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione said the schools would work on such a plan. This contract was a 2-for-1 — two games in Norman, one in New Orleans. Tulane played on Owen Field in 2017 and is set to play there again in 2024. But it’s not as easy as swapping 2021 and 2024.
OU has designated all ticket sales for the game Saturday as Tulane’s. That will certainly help Tulane’s budget. The income won’t come close to a regularseason OU home game. The game is not part of the season-ticket package, it will be a hurryup sale and out-of-state fans aren’t likely to be here, having made no prior arrangements.
It’s a bummer all the way around. Tulane, a charter member of the SEC until it left the conference in 1966, long welcomed big-name opponents to New Orleans.
Florida in 1982 (before the Gators became a national power). Florida State in 1990 (the Seminoles most definitely were a national power). Georgia in 1972. Notre Dame in 1969. Texas in 2002.
But times have changed. Getting an Alabama or a Georgia or a Clemson or an Oklahoma to come to Yulman Stadium isn’t easy.
The Green Wave brokered the OU deal, but now the hurricane has wiped out the Sooners’ trip, and who knows when Tulane gets another chance?
Berry Tramel can be reached at 405760-8080 or at btramel@oklahoman .com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.