Photos: Struggling Tulane hosted UConn Saturday at Yulman Stadium _lowres

Advocate staff photo by A.J. SISCO -- Tulane fans sit through a driving rainstorm as the Green Wave takes on Connecticut at Yulman Stadium on Saturday.

At Tulane, homecoming matters.

When 75 percent of your alumni live outside of Louisiana, it’s usually the one time a year they get back to the campus.

That’s why, on a day when the predicted rains came right on schedule, the turnout was far more than the friends and family would be on hand to see the Green Wave face UConn.

In fact, there were more tickets sold for tailgating in the quad than for last year’s debut game at Yulman Stadium.

And there was a goodly number still hanging around until the end of a game that had more than twice the number of punts (22) than points (10).

“We’re not going anywhere,” said freshman band member Emelia Wilkinson of Newport, Rhode Island. “If the team is going the field, we’re going to be there and ready to go.”

That was appreciated.

“Being that it was homecoming, we wanted to put on a show for everybody who came back. We especially wanted to do something for the Katrina group,” senior safety Darion Monroe said, referring to the 308 athletes from 2005 who were inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.

“They came to see us play in the rain. We’re disappointed we couldn’t give them a ‘W.’ ”

No they didn’t.

The Green Wave’s 7-3 loss clinched the 37th losing season since the school left the Southeastern Conference 50 years ago, the 13th in 16 seasons this century and the third in four years under Curtis Johnson.

There will be no bowl game.

The impact on the program will be played out over the final three games of the season as the school searches for a new athletic director.

But Saturday, it was hard to find much anger about the situation.

Maybe folks were more concerned about staying dry.

On this day, the lack of success on the field certainly took a back seat to the reunions and other gatherings.

That, though, was a reminder of what a unifying element football can be — especially when it’s on campus.

“You wouldn’t have seen this kind of turnout in the Dome,” said Joel Strauss, a senior from Princeton, New Jersey. “It would have been about 35 of my closest friends and me, and no matter how much we yelled, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“The stadium has revitalized the whole school.”

But what about losing again?

“That pick-six was unfortunate,” Strauss said, referring to UConn’s only touchdown. “But at least we hung in there.”

Homecoming queen Sue Claire Lichtvelz, a senior from Cumming, Georgia, said the important thing was the stadium.

“There’s a camaraderie here we could have never had in the Superdome,” she said. “That really belongs to the Saints.”

Others were looking at the athletic upside.

Demarcus Davis, a wide receiver on the 2005 football team, advised patience.

“Katrina hit this school pretty bad, and we’re still recovering in some ways,” he said. “Football takes a little more time at Tulane, but the seeds have been sewn.”

And Alicia Robertson, a former Tulane volleyball player from Baton Rouge, said the school still fulfills its athletic mission.

“I’m proud of the team and I’m proud of what the coach is doing with the team,” she said. “Regardless of what the record may be, it’s still about turning out good students and good people who become good citizens.

“That’s what Tulane did for me, and I stand behind it.”

But 71-year-old Jerry Canzoneri of New Orleans represents more of what the Tulane fan base used to be. And he’s not happy.

“I don’t think the coach is the right person for the team,” he said. “They (are) sure not running the right offense.

“This stadium was supposed to make a difference, but so far it’s not. They’d better hire the right guy, or this is going to turn into a soccer field.”

That’s pretty strong.

But when the school finally hires its new athletic director, making football matter at Tulane as much as homecoming should be Priority No. 1.