NEW ORLEANS - It didn’t even take a final score for Tulane wide receiver Wilson Van Hooser to know something needed to be done.
Standing on the sideline during the fourth quarter of the Green Wave’s 45-6 loss to Army, the redshirt sophomore and his teammates began plotting a players-only meeting to address what’s gone wrong in consecutive lopsided losses.
So after coach Bob Toledo and his staff met with the team on Sunday night, players stayed behind to air their grievances in what became an emotional and occasionally tearful gathering, according to Toledo.
“That players’ meeting was huge,” Van Hooser said. “We got together and said we know we’ve gotten rid of the cancers on this team and have gotten to the point where we have great talent and leaders. We just need to step up more; and everyone, myself included, needs to make plays and bring the rest of the team with them. That will bring everyone together.”
The message will be tested in the Superdome at 7 p.m. Saturday when Tulane (2-3) hosts Syracuse (3-2).
In each of the past three seasons, Tulane has stood in the same position: a 2-3 record, coming off of a loss, and the season at a crossroads. It has combined for a 3-18 record from that point going forward.
However, Toledo stressed that this year’s team feels different, and Sunday’s meeting affirmed his optimism in the team.
“While I was in there, we had several players get up and even cry because it hurt so much,” Toledo said. “That’s why I believe this team, more so than any team we’ve had, is headed in the right direction, regardless of what people think.”
While the locker room may be ready to move on from the string of ugly losses, the Wave’s fan base is more fixated on Toledo’s job status and his 15-38 record at Tulane.
Toledo called his current position “the hardest job” he’s ever had, but did accept a contract extension from Athletics Director Rick Dickson after last offseason with the mandate that he produce winning results.
So being outscored 93-33 combined by Duke and Army has expectedly brought on an outcry from the Wave supporters across the Internet.
The scrutiny grew on Monday when a report surfaced claiming Toledo’s house is for sale and several assistant coaches are living month-to-month in rented apartments. On Tuesday, Toledo fired back at both the media and fans for asserting that he’s prepared to leave the school.
“People are ridiculous,” Toledo said. “People are absolutely ridiculous. I put my house up in May. The timing of this article and stuff is really interesting. I lose two football games, and all of a sudden my house is for sale. The timing is really interesting.
“I put my house up for sale in May because my wife and I decided that our house is way too big for us at this point. It’s just her and myself, and to have a 4,400-plus square foot home, it doesn’t make sense. Last May, not Sunday, we put our house up for sale to scale down and get a little villa in English Turn (a New Orleans subdivision) because we love English Turn.”
Toledo said he’s done worrying about the “naysayers” and anyone outside of his program, choosing to focus internally and on Syracuse, as the Wave hope to ease the churning turmoil by earning a win over a Big East opponent.
“We’re just trying to band together,” Toledo said. “We can’t let the naysayers, you know some of the media people who try to distract us, we can’t let them keep us from having a good season. We don’t want them to ruin our season, because that’s obviously what they try to do by distracting you.”