Tulane blocks out noise, focuses on preparation rather than highly-ranked foe
NEW ORLEANS – Who is this team Tulane is playing this week?
They sure are getting a lot of attention.
They’re ranked No. 4 in the country.
They’re expecting to lure more than 100,000 fans to their stadium to see Tulane.
And there’s a buzz around their program because their head coach is conveniently coming off a season-long suspension in the nick of time to face Tulane.
The buzz is so strong, in fact, that most of the coach’s news conference Monday dealt with his suspension and return. He spoke for an hour and answered, more or less, 42 questions.
The transcript of the give-and-take contained more than 9,000 words. It included lots of words and terms you might not expect to hear during a football coach’s news conference, stuff like trespassing, prescription, cyst issues, “relativeness”, sex, opioid, purview and salacious.
You want to know what word was not among the 9,000-plus in the transcript?
Heck, even Bowling Green’s football program was mentioned.
But Tulane’s was not.
It’s almost as though Tulane is some sort of generic opponent whose name doesn’t really matter.
But it’s okay if Tulane’s opponent isn’t obsessing about Tulane because Tulane isn’t obsessing about its opponent either.
When asked what he thought the impact would be of the opposing coach’s return, Tulane coach Willie Fritz said simply, “No idea. None of my business.”
Safety Rod Teamer called this game “a great opportunity for our program.”
“But,” Teamer added, “we haven’t paid attention to anything about their coach.”
Fritz has made one accommodation based on the opponent, playing their fight song at practice in addition to piping in crowd noise to simulate what the atmosphere will be like Saturday.
“The crowd noise is harder,” Teamer said. “You can tune the music out.”
Visiting teams probably feel the same way when they venture into Yulman Stadium.
This experience won’t be anything new for Fritz or his players.
For one thing, Tulane drew nearly 90,000 fans for its game at No. 2 Oklahoma last season. Teamer wasn’t able to play in that game because of an injury, but he made the trip and absorbed the atmosphere from the sideline.
“Their fans were into it from the time we got off the bus until we left the field,” Teamer said. “It was fun.”
Running back Darius Bradwell said he’s “used to big games.”
“If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be playing this sport,” he said. “In high school I played in a lot of big games, a lot of TV games. We played IMG.”
Fritz, who coached BlinnJunior College to two national championships and Sam Houston State to appearances in two FCS championship games, is also used to a big stage.
“We always played at least a couple of these games each year when I was coaching at Sam Houston,” Fritz said. “Our guys seemed to really enjoy it. I’m sure our guys will enjoy the atmosphere.
“Heck, I’m looking forward to it. It’s a big venue. You always hear a lot about playing there. You’ve got to soak it in for a little bit, and then it’s over and you play between the white lines.”
And that’s the bottom line – what happens between the white lines in the historic first meeting between these programs.
So forget all this attention being paid to Tulane’s opponent.
In fact, they might as well be some sort of generic opponent whose name doesn’t really matter.
“The main thing,” Fritz said, “is we’ve just got to worry about us.”
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…