Yulman Stadium: A Cinderella story

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Tulane’s offense starts a drive from their own end zone at Yulman Stadium.

Will Potts, Senior Staff Reporter

We built it, and the results didn’t come.

Yulman Stadium, completed in the fall of 2014, was expected not only to bring home the Tulane Green Wave football team, which had previously played its games off campus in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, but also a new era for an all-but-forgotten football program.

It had the makings of a fairy tale. The ugly and ignored Green Wave had been relegated to the shadows for years as its prettier sisters in the collegiate football ranks stole the spotlight. Then, one day, with no expense spared, a $73 million glass slipper presented itself. Richard Yulman appeared to be Tulane’s knight in shining armor.

To students and fans alike, this slipper, with a 30,000-seat capacity, was Tulane’s ticket to a level of relevancy it had not enjoyed since an undefeated 1998 season.

But even the ’98 season is easy to discredit, as it was during Tulane’s membership in Conference USA. That season, C-USA was ranked 8 out of the 25 conferences. Though that may seem impressive, in the years since, all but two of the conferences once ranked below them have either been absorbed or disbanded. The conference was considered so ineffectual, despite Tulane being one of only two Division I schools to finish the regular season without a loss, that it did not receive a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth.

Regardless of the past, Tulane had the chance it needed in 2014. It had a glistening stadium which symbolized the school’s newfound dedication to its football program. The shoe did not yet fit, as the quality of the team’s on-field performances did not yet match the quality of the facilities. The university clung to the notion that its team would grow to the excellence of its surroundings.

Tulane even had a bigger and better conference, leaving C-USA for the more respected American Athletic Conference. Questions about strength of schedule, which had previously hampered Tulane’s postseason opportunities, would be a thing of the past. All the pieces were in place. The school finally had its ticket to the ball.

But, like its receiving corps, Tulane dropped it.  

Great stadiums alone do not make great football programs. State-of-the-art facilities can undoubtedly help attract new recruits and perpetuate the growth of school spirit and football support, but only to an extent.

Since Athletic Director Rick Dickson took the helm in 2000, the Green Wave has won a miserable 33 percent (62-187) of their games. Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson has continued this trend, as his team has won just 32 percent (14-44) of the time as of last week’s 31-14 loss to Navy.

There are many factors affecting Tulane’s on-field struggles, but ultimately the blame goes up. Dickson announced his retirement for May 2016, and while Johnson deserves the chance to try and take the program in a new direction, the patience of Tulane fans is wearing thin.

Tulane’s tenure in the halls of Yulman Stadium is very young, but the stadium’s impact will only deteriorate year by year. Now, the stadium may still draw larger crowds than Tulane’s performances deserve, but that cannot be counted upon for very long.

The Green Wave football program cannot allow its facilities, and the newness of the culture it hopes to cultivate, as justification for complacency. It must not let its dreams for the future distract from the direness of its current situation.

There is a lacking sense of urgency. Tulane tailgates are excuses to engage in pre-game debauchery when one normally wakes up. The exodus from the Lavin-Bernick Center Quad is not toward the stadium but toward students’ dorms.

After halftime, the students in Yulman’s stands are not holding signs and Green Wave flags, they’re holding brass instruments because the only people left are Tulane University Marching Band.

The window is closing for Tulane to capitalize on the opportunity afforded by its costly glass slipper. It better make the shoe fit soon, or else it’ll be stuck with the trash of DI football, with a clear reminder of what could have been.

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