Yulman Stadium era not as kind to Tulane football as anticipated
Tulane kicks off its ninth season at Yulman Stadium against UMass on Sept. 3.
The stadium, an idea brought to fruition by former University President Scott Cowen, was supposed to be a boon to the football program.
On campus attendance would surely surpass any numbers in the Superdome.
Fans would tailgate in droves.
Students would flock to games.
The football program, back on campus, would get a much-needed shot in the arm.
Well, here’s the only number that counts: Since 2014, Tulane is 16-24 against FBS opponents at Yulman Stadium.
“The new stadium will revitalize our football program, and be a tremendous asset to our entire community,” said Cowen, quoted in a University news release.
Eight seasons after it opened, Green Wave football still has some of the same problems, including the biggest.
The ticket-buying public in metro New Orleans, many who used to support the school’s athletics program, are not buying enough tickets.
Also, the ticket-buying public, the ones who didn’t attend the University but supported it because it is the city’s only FBS football school, is far more important than students coming to games.
Nothing has changed in regards to the latter. At the old Tulane stadium and the Superdome, student attendance was sporadic. A fair number of students come to games at Yulman but often times many of them depart well before the final whistle.
Yulman stadium has other issues with parking as a major one.
In September, when it is 93 degrees outside with a 60 percent chance of rain, are you going to park at St Rita’s Catholic school and take a shuttle to the game? Or are you going to watch the game in the comfort of your own home on one of the ESPN platforms?
It’s not just a Tulane problem. Many SEC schools, including LSU, have the same issue.
Do I want to fight traffic in and out or do I watch the game at home on my widescreen TV?
Another impediment to attendance is the alignment of the facility itself. To placate the neighborhood that wanted the west side stands to be lower, the most expensive seats in the house, those that are part of the Glazer club, are on the East sideline looking right into the sun.
Tulane head coach Willie Fritz has done a very solid job with the program. Despite last season’s two wins, Fritz needs only seven victories to pass Chris Scelfo and become the second winningest coach in school history.
Fritz’s cause would have been helped even more with a state of the art indoor practice facility on the Yulman Stadium footprint. That along with a state of the art weight room would be huge steps forward for the program.
Green Wave conference rival Memphis built exactly that, an 80,000 square foot facility. The Tigers continue to play in the dated Liberty Bowl but they do win at a fair clip. Before last year’s 6-6 campaign, Memphis posted seven straight seasons with at least eight victories including three years with at least 10 wins and a New Year’s 6 bowl berth in 2017.
Yulman Stadium was built, in part, because Cowen wanted to prove that he was really in support of football, when in reality under his leadership, the program was underfunded for years.
The current administration can’t say anything negative about Yulman, because it is paid for by very wealthy supporters, Richard Yulman along with Tom and Gayle Benson.
However, if you injected the current leadership with truth serum, my guess is they would say something like the following.
“Not only has Yulman Stadium not helped us, it also costs a fortune in police and security to run a game there.”
At the Superdome, Tulane’s base rent was about $12,000 per game. Each season, the school would send the Superdome a check for about $70,000 to pay for rent, field painting and one half the cost of the NOPD detail.
In 2013, Tulane’s final season in the Superdome, the Wave was 5-1 in the regular season with four of those victories against FBS teams.
It is a mark that has yet to be equaled in the Wave’s return Uptown.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…