Tulane AD offers insight on LSU baseball series in podcast

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Tulane Baseball
(Photo: Parker Waters)

Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen said there could be multiple reasons why LSU and Tulane are not meeting in baseball in 2019 for the first time since the early days of the Southeastern Conference.

In a half-hour interview on the “Fear the Wave” podcast that dropped late Monday, Dannen suggested that it may be about Tulane choosing to not allow a television broadcast of its home game with the Tigers last spring – instead streaming the game behind a paywall on its website – or it may be that LSU has “nothing to gain” from a home-and-home series.

With regard to the TV component, Dannen said, “There is no contract that I’ve seen anywhere in the country where the visiting team controls the media rights.”

He compared the move to one from his time as AD at Northern Iowa, when power programs Iowa and Iowa State stopped home-and-home basketball series with UNI.

Dannen said he agreed to play LSU in the 2020 Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at the Shrine on Airline, but that decision has generated “pushback” from Tulane supporters.

As to whether an on-campus version of the series would resume, Dannen suggested it may be a while.

“When the players at the table change, whenever they change, it may be able to be salvaged,” he said. “But for now, it’s very, very disappointing.”

Here is a transcript of Dannen’s full response to the question on the LSU baseball series. The podcast is accessible through most providers; click here to access via iTunes.

“I went through this at Northern Iowa too, as Iowa and Iowa State quit playing home-and-home basketball series. The reason they did it, much the same reason LSU doesn’t want to play home-and-home anymore, (was) one, there’s nothing to gain.

“I look at it first from the LSU perspective because while our fans don’t care, in scheduling, two people have to want to tango. If one doesn’t, it’s not gonna happen. We’ve offered LSU, let’s play a neutral football game every X number of years in the Superdome, let’s play a neutral basketball game in Smoothie King Center every year.  I’ve even gone so far as to offer let’s rent Smoothie King Center out and play all day and let LSU play somebody at one time and we’ll play somebody else at another time in those off years. That would be a great scheduling alliance for Tulane. If I’m LSU, I understand that’s  not such a great scheduling alliance because they may have nothing to gain by playing Tulane.

“We about lost the series a year ago and I think it was Travis’ relationship with Coach Mainieri that gave us another year. There’s been a lot of talk about the television and the fact that we streamed it, and so that’s why LSU doesn’t want to play the series anymore. I guess I look at it this way … Tulane, whether I’m the AD or someone else is the AD, Tulane can never give up its (broadcast) rights to play somebody. Oklahoma (broadcast on pay-per-view) our football game last year, for Pete’s sakes. When an institution owns its rights, its obligation is to monetize those rights as best it can. If LSU wants the game on TV and a condition of them playing us is for the game to be on TV, there is no contract that I’ve seen anywhere in the country where the visiting team controls the media rights.

“I don’t know if that’s the case. They may use that as an excuse for not playing the series; I don’t know. They sent us an email in mid-June saying here are the two options … we don’t want to play home and home anymore. Basically, we can play two home games instead of a home game and a road game. From a financial standpoint, we can argue about it, but if they’re going to net $80,000 on a baseball home game, I would want to make that decision if I was their athletic director as well. They offered us a 4-for-1; you come up here four years, and we’ll come to your place one. That’s the same deal they have with (UL) Lafayette, McNeese and the others.

“We don’t look at ourselves in that light. We said no. They offered us to play that neutral game in the Wally Pontiff Classic. I said yes to it, and I’ve actually got a little pushback from fans that I wasn’t expecting for saying yes to that. If we could play a neutral game in basketball or a neutral game in football, we’d take it in a heartbeat. Now the fact we haven’t been playing that series (in basketball or football), that’s something new. People think we should turn down the neutral game as well. I think that’s more reactionary and anger at LSU. It’s a good series for us to play, as long as we can play it.

“I will say this – because we’re in the American now and not Conference USA, I’m not worried about RPI. We had eight teams in the top 100 of the RPI last year. We were in the top 100 with a losing record. We’ve got plenty of strength of schedule. Ole Miss is coming in for three next spring for a weekend series. Strength of schedule is not going to hurt us one way or another without LSU.

“I’m really disappointed the series went away for one reason, and that is the history. There aren’t many series out there that have stood the test of time like this one did. And, the fact that our fan base cares about this one more than any of the others. That said, one of the surprises that came out of it was that we wanted the series to go away or that Tulane was complicit in not playing the series. Nothing could be further from the truth. This thing got beyond the baseball coaches pretty quickly in trying to save it. It got to board members at both institutions, it got to legislators, in order to try to save it, and it couldn’t be saved.

“When the players at the table change, whenever they change, it may be able to be salvaged. But for now, it’s very, very disappointing.”

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

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;…

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