Area sports PR staple Bill Curl dies at 77
Bill Curl, one of the most influential behind-the-scenes men in New Orleans and Louisiana sports history, died Friday. He was 77.
Curl spent more than four decades publicizing and promoting area sports, first at Tulane University and later for the Superdome and SMG, before his retirement in 2010. Even after he retired, he continued to work on other public and media relations projects, including John Curtis Christian School and host committees for the Super Bowl and Final Four.
The Ohio native arrived in New Orleans in 1966 when he was hired as Tulane’s sports information director.
Curl quickly displayed his innovative skills, helping form the sports information directors division of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and working with The Associated Press to institute the All-South Independent football teams, providing opportunities for individual player honors after Tulane had just left the Southeastern Conference.
In an era where schools did not have separate marketing departments, it was Curl who created the concept of the “Year of the Green” in 1970, a season that ended with a 7-4 record and an upset victory in the Liberty Bowl over Colorado.
After a brief stint at the University of Arkansas, Curl returned to New Orleans to work for the city’s tourist commission before accepting a position at the Superdome, where he worked for 33 years.
Upon his return to New Orleans, he played a large role in convincing the NCAA to bring the Final Four to the Dome, which would lead to the move to bring college basketball’s biggest weekend away from traditional arenas and into domed stadiums.
While Curl was working for the Dome, it landed five Final Fours, six Super Bowls and hosted a youth rally led by Pope John Paul II and the Republican National Convention.
He also had a big role in helping to create events that became staples of the facility’s annual schedule.
The Dome hosted the Class 4A state championship football game between Catholic League rivals Jesuit and St. Augustine in December 1978, which attracted a record crowd of 44,000. Shortly thereafter, Curl pitched the Louisiana High School Athletic Association on the idea of hosting all four state title games. With the exception of the post-Hurricane Katrina 2005 season, the facility has hosted every football championship game since 1981 – a number which has grown from four to nine per season.
In 1987, he also was an integral part in starting an early-season college baseball tournament featuring Tulane, LSU and the University of New Orleans against three schools from another state, a format that has been copied many times since.
Curl was also there in September 2006 when the building re-opened for the first time after Katrina, an event that continues to signal the rebirth of a city.
Curl received the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 – the first honoree to receive the award outside of a university or media outlet – and was given the Billy Slatten Award from Tulane’s athletic hall of fame in 2013.
He also has a plaque in the Superdome press box in his honor. His former employer paid tribute to him in a special way Friday night.
The exterior lights of both the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center will not be illuminated tonight, Friday, June 15, 2018 as we remember and honor Bill Curl and the impact he had on these venues and our city. pic.twitter.com/ULhYGQDZv2
— MBSuperdome (@MBSuperdome) June 15, 2018
Curl is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and four children.
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…