LAFAYETTE — The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s surprising success on the football field this fall is causing some unexpected — but good — problems off the field.
Case in point: Recruiting.
The Ragin’ Cajuns, off to a Sun Belt Conference-record 6-1 start, already have 16 oral commitments for next season. That figure is significantly higher than that at this stage in any past season and is not a problem.
What is, however, is that with all the sudden success and excitement surrounding the program, the Cajuns can’t possibly accept all of the commitments recruits want to throw their way these days.
“It’s hard to take all of those right now,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth admitted this week at his weekly news conference. “We’ve got a lot of guys right now wanting to be Ragin’ Cajuns.”
The surge in ULL football popularity is not surprising.
After losing to nationally-ranked Oklahoma State in Week 1, the Cajuns have won six straight games and gotten off to the school’s best start since 1976 when that team began the year 8-0. In addition, the six-game winning streak is their best since 1993.
With that kind of start and the excitement generated by it, the Cajuns have seen a predictably increasing interest by fans, media, and most importantly to Hudspeth, recruits.
Large numbers of recruits have been visible at each of the Cajuns’ four home games to date, and more are expected at the Cajuns’ home finale Nov. 5 against Louisiana-Monroe.
What they’ve seen, in addition to three straight Cajuns victories, are record crowds, who have piled into the stadium in their Vermilion colors and filled up parts of the stadium which have been bare for years, including the grass hills in the north and south end zones.
Attendance has been so good, that through four home games, the Cajuns have already attracted 117,678 fans or an average of 29,420.
Should that figure hold up through the ULM game, the 2012 team would crush the school’s average home attendance figure by more than 4,000 a game.
Not to be lost in the surge, too, is Hudspeth, whose popularity is soaring as he speaks to everyone from the school quarterback club to nationally syndicated radio sports talk show hosts — as he did last week — and hops around Acadiana high school football stadiums by helicopter on Friday nights before home games.
He has, it seems, become an overnight celebrity, and recruits, as well as fans, are taking note.
“Recruiting is going well,” he said. “(And) the national exposure is going to get us into some more (recruits’) rooms.”
Hudspeth said the Cajuns will wind up signing the maximum 25 recruits for the year, including, perhaps, some players who will report in the spring.
“We definitely want to bring in some midyear guys, too,” he said. “I feel good that we are where we are recruiting-wise right now, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
“And we want to make sure that we’re making the right evaluations and right decisions.”