Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Second Line

A new year dawns and like most things at Georgetown, not much changes. In higher education, that's not a bad thing, but institutional inertia is like hardening of the arteries to an athletic program: sooner or later, it's going to get you.

So it is with a ray of hope that I came across a name from the past and a nod to the future, unrelated to Georgetown in name but not in spirit: Tulane Stadium.

Imagine an 80,000 seat stadium right in the middle of Georgetown's campus, say along the edge of campus near the Reiss Science Center. Such was the home of the Sugar Bowl for 40 years, sitting amidst a 110 acre college campus (just 6 acres larger than the Hilltop) with no discernible parking--a boon to the the street cars and enterprising neighbors along St. Charles Avenue who would welcome passers-by with a front lawn to park in, or a cold beverage en route along the walk. Laissez les bons temps rouler.

Of course, there was no 80,000 seat stadium at Georgetown, not even the 25,000 seat facility proposed in the 1920's. And today at Tulane, there is no 80,000 seat stadium either--the arrival of the NFL to the Crescent City in 1967 was the beginning of the end for the old stadium, which hosted two Super Bowls as late as 1975 before the Louisiana Superdome made it obsolete. Tulane moved its games off campus, tore down the old stadium and built dorms in its place, and went on its way.

Ask any Green Wave fan, though, and they'll tell you something was missing, and has been for a long while. Attendance has languished at the Superdome. Purple and gold are the predominant colors around town these days, not green and white. Days of yore between Tulane and LSU are long gone (yes, Tulane once played in the SEC) and the Tigers dropped the longtime series because it was no longer competitive.

The school came close to dropping the program in the early 2000's and nearly did it again after Hurricane Katrina. But despite it all, there were hopes that football could return to the small campus, in some form or fashion. And it will.

The drawing above was introduced to the Tulane community last month, as the school has announced a $60 million campaign for a new Tulane Stadium. Smaller than its namesake by design, the stadium will stand just north of the old stadium (check the running track in the older photo above, and that's roughly where it will be built) and seat 30,000.

"Tulane University has enjoyed many successes while playing the last 36 football seasons in the Superdome," reads a University release. "Players and fans alike share memories of victories and celebrations under the roof of an iconic structure. But in the collective imagination of the Green Wave faithful there has remained an underlying interest in bringing the Greenies home to an uptown, on-campus football stadium…a place to continue traditions and inspire the next generation of athletes and fans, and bring the New Orleans community to campus. Coming back to campus…a true home field advantage."

That is  more than a press release, but the first of a coordinated campaign--web, social media, and development-- poised to make the new Tulane Stadium more than a subject of polite discussion at university gatherings, they're going to get it built. In less than two years.

Visiting its web site-- -- introduces guests to a variety of views of the old and new, with designs of the proposed stadium, teestimonials from local residents and former players, and a list of commitments already made before one shovel goes into land that once was a sugar plantation. You can follow the stadium's on Twitter. On Facebook. On YouTube.

Want to name the stadium? It's already done, although not announced. How about the field? Sold. Of the $60 million for the project, $40 million has already been raised.

"The experience of these kids who are students at this school will be so much more memorable that the fundraising from the academic side to the athletic side — the total endowment that this school will get from the experience that the students will get from having an on-campus stadium will fund many things for years to come,” a Tulane supporter told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"We really undertook the task of doing the stadium regardless of conference affiliation; we thought it was the right thing to do for our program and the community,” said school president Scott Cowen. Dr. Cowen, who was once cast as the villain for proposing doing away with the program a decade earlier, added: "Might it have some impact later on? It could, but I think what conferences look at is, ‘Are you making a commitment?’

A thousand miles north and east, that question is still being asked.

"It is crucial that we complete the Multi-Sport Field. Our goals will stay the same: To improve our teams' game-day experience, to make the venue more fan-friendly, and to construct an aesthetically pleasing facility. As we develop new options for this important project in the coming months, we look forward to sharing its details with our friends and donors."--Interim A.D. Dan Porterfield, 2009

2012 marks the 13th year of the Multi-Sport Facility effort, an effort that continues to be placed on the backburner of campus projects and politics--first, a pause to get the Southwest Quad built, then to wait to get Hariri Hall built, next to focus on the Science Building, now to plan for the $50 million Intercollegiate Athletics Center, a project which Georgetown has set no public timeline, because the money is not there.

I would not claim, nor intend to, that the MSF is "owed" to be placed ahead of any of these projects. But is there any direction for how and when this project will be completed? Where is the web site? Where is the means to give? Where is the social media reminding people that, yes, the MSF (and/or the IAC, for that matter) is a priority? A Facebook page for Tulane Stadium opened last month and has passed 600 followers. A Facebook page for the MSF is out there and has four followers. At Georgetown, if you never announce a start date, you're never really "behind schedule". So it is with the MSF.

On or about Sep. 6, 2014 (and that's not that far away), Tulane may well open its new stadium in traditional New Orleans style--a brass band making its way from Uptown across the campus, while a "second line" of revelers follows in tune. Why not throw a party? This is a remarkable accomplishment, and a sign of new vitality for the Uptown campus. Not even a hurricane could stop this Green Wave.

"It is important for our program to have a central location on campus where we can bring the excitement of Green Wave Football and celebrate together," said new Tulane coach Curtis Johnson. "Once completed, I believe the stadium will be the crown jewel of the Tulane campus, as well as a defining point of our great city, and a magnificent place for recruits to visit.”

On or about Sep. 6, 2014, Georgetown players, coaches, and fans will open its season, the 50th anniversary of the return of intercollegiate football to its campus, asking why, after 15 years, it still hasn't built the MSF. There will be no second line.