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November 27, 2012

Tulane adds a little

Prior to the 2014 college football season Tulane University will join the Big East Conference. If Cincinnati remains they will be rejoined by their former conference-mate from Conference USA.

"It elevates their programs and also benefits our conference," said Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco. "It is going to be an enormously important school for our conference. Tulane fits our major market strategy. They are committed to their major programs. You can see that with everything going on on campus. They will be extremely competitive in the Big East."

Remember all those classic Tulane-Cincinnati battles?

Tulane has lost the last 10 straight basketball games against Cincinnati dating back until 1991 when Bob Huggins led the Bearcats to a 3rd place Metro Conference finish.

Cincinnati athletics do not gain much from adding Tulane. There might be a couple nice basketball games worth traveling to in New Orleans over the next decade. Otherwise, this addition brings little.

On the other end of the spectrum Tulane administrators could not be more elated.

"This is a great day for Tulane University and Tulane athletics," said Tulane President Scott Cowan. "We are so thrilled to welcome the Big East to the Big Easy. I am delighted we have the bridge between the Big East and New Orleans."

Growing up in New Jersey President Cowan has some ties up along the east coast. He attended UConn, as well.

"We love the promise and the potential of the Big East as an athletic conference."

Football impact

By adding Tulane the Big East Conference clearly targeted TV sets in and around New Orleans, Louisiana. Whether Tulane University football games will carry the wildly diverse region remains to be seen.

"Right now the fanbase is at its lowest ebb ever,' said Guerry Smith of Tulane Rivals.com "They are moving to on-campus football stadium at start of 2014 season."

Like Temple the Green Wave plays in the local NFL Stadium. Unfortunately, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome rarely draws Tulane fans in.

"It is empty," said Smith. "The student newspaper used Freedom of Information Act and found out that they had three home games in the last two years with actual attendance of less than 3,000 in 2011.

Athletic departments routinely fabricate attendance figures.

"The listed attendance is around 20,000 per game."

New buildings mean new beginnings to college football fans. Usually. Perhaps this nearby monolith will bring alumni back out in droves.

"The construction has not started, but the target date is by the start of 2014," said Smith.

Head Coach Curtis Johnson pushed hard for new facilities, likely citing the need to attract better athletes to Tulane University.

With the monumental ($15 million) help from mattress tycoon Richard Yulman Tulane was ready to begin the fundraising in earnest. If plans proceed swimmingly Yulman Stadium will provide seating for 30,000 screaming fans by the 2014 football season.

Situated just a few thousand feet from the Mississippi River Tulane University's campus should become even more vibrant and energetic with the stadium. Plans to build it on the north end of campus are still in place, but ground-breaking has not started just yet.

Football fans in Louisiana lean heavily towards LSU. New Orleans Saints come next in the pecking order. Tulane football hardly registers.

"They just have become disinterested but the on-campus stadium may help," said Publisher Smith of TheWaveReport.com. "It is going to be a new facility. It was announced in December of last year that they are going to build it."

Coach Johnson was also hired in December of last year. Coincidence? Probably not at all.

Media coverage of Tulane football is abysmal locally and non-existent nationally.

New Orleans-based WWLTV doesn't even send a reporter to cover Tulane games.

An overlooked collapsing conference

In the last two years the Big East Conference has done its best to add legitimate football programs to the fold. Teams like Boise State, San Diego State, and SMU were targeted for their regional appeal. Ideally Boise State will be a national draw in the short term too.

Replacing Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and now Rutgers has not been easy. Still the Big East Conference has done better than Cincinnati's old home the Conference USA.

Somehow C-USA saw fit to add Louisiana Tech, Texas-San Antonio, North Texas, and Old Dominion.

Traditions renewed

With the onset of conference expansion and realignment decade-old rivalries like Syracuse-Georgetown and Maryland-Duke are broken. Cincinnati and Louisville are still going to compete unless just one finds a new conference home.

Though Tulane is a new addition to the Big East the Bearcats of Cincinnati do have a notable memory including the Green Wave.

Former Bearcat power forward Danny Fortson did provide a buzzer-beater in 1997 against Tulane. With 34 points and 12 rebounds he guaranteed UC would stretch the winning streak into the new millennium.

In the end this move was about conference stability and not conference ascendance. Tulane football will not help the Big East thrive. It will merely guarantee the conference can have their Big East Championship.

For years they have been keying on a conference clash between the two top teams. Visible and lucrative this event is expected to provide a national showcase for a conference with national aspirations.

"We are not finished," said Aresco. "We have some other plans for expansion. The Big East has always managed to be resilient. That is exactly what we are. We have been extremely diligent in how we manage our brand."

The commish was able to be a little more detailed in his plans than usual.

"Right now we are looking at 14 teams, but we are open to 16 team conference...There are some quality institutions that would like to join and we will let that play out. We will be very deliberate."


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