If anyone can handle LSU-BYU on short notice, it’s New Orleans
Where were you on Oct. 29, 1921? For almost all of you, the answer is obvious: Not born yet.
On that Saturday at Heinemann Park on the corner of Carrollton and Tulane in New Orleans, LSU met Alabama in football.
Today, the significance of that game is simple. It is the last time an LSU team played a neutral-site, regular-season football game in the Crescent City.
Depending on the events of the next 48 hours, that 96-year streak could come to an end this weekend, as the Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the Tigers’ season opener with BYU.
Though LSU senior associate AD Verge Ausberry has quietly worked behind the scenes to put one of those neutral-site season openers for the Tigers in New Orleans sometime in the next decade, the record rains and flooding in Houston the last three days – which could very likely lead to the game being moved – have suddenly opened the door to accelerating that timeline.
The Dome is available Saturday night, all set for football after the Saints play host to the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. A few paint removers and the addition of some purple and blue paint and college hashmarks can have the Poydras Street playing surface looking like NRG Stadium East in a hurry.
And besides the continued prayers and other support for all the people of southeast Texas who have much more to worry about than hosting a neutral-site football game within days after this once-in-many-lifetimes rain event, here’s what New Orleans can do – take on this challenge on short notice.
Because if any group of people can handle these late logistical changes, it’s both our city’s leaders and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva and his team.
The Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation landed a bid for last February’s NBA All-Star weekend on six months’ notice after the league pulled the event from Charlotte. Not only that, but they had to host during the first weekend of Mardi Gras.
And in the last 24 months, Alleva has dealt with four different football postponements, cancellations and rescheduled games. It’s looking more and more like he might add a fifth game to that list, but this would be the first to come to New Orleans. (To be clear, this is not just an LSU call. Besides the two schools, Lone Star Sports and Entertainment operates the event and ESPN is also a stakeholder in the process.)
In the first quarter-century of the program’s history, LSU playing neutral-site games in New Orleans was not uncommon. Between 1896 and 1917, the Tigers met the Southern Athletic Club, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Sewanee, Haskell and Georgia Tech.
Of course, back then, the logistics of hosting a college football game – home, road or neutral site – were a little bit easier.
These days, it’s a little different, especially with kickoff less than a week away. Among the biggest details: SMG will need hundreds of game-day staff workers and a few hundred hotel rooms will need to be secured for teams and the ESPN crew, not to mention the fans of both schools.
For the record, that 1921 LSU-Alabama game ended in a 7-7 tie in front of about 4,000 fans. We know that score – or that crowd – won’t be the case on Saturday, wherever the game is played.
But given the chance, New Orleans would be the perfect choice.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in 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;…