Word is, a group of disgruntled Tulane fans intend to hire a plane to fly a banner over Yulman Stadium during Saturday’s homecoming game demanding that the school “Fire Rick Dickson.”
Well that’s rich.
If it weren’t for the Green Wave athletic director’s long quest to get an on-campus facility built, there’d be nothing to fly over.
They’d have had to get a drone to buzz around inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome instead. And there might not be anybody to see it.
That’s not to say that Dickson’s 14 years in charge on Ben Weiner Drive have been perfect. Anyone who would give Bob Toledo an extra year should have his judgment severely questioned.
And for the time it took to raise the money to build Yulman, it ought to have a retractable roof.
But as the Wave marks its first outdoor homecoming in 40 years Saturday, as far as the football program goes at least, positives outweigh the negatives.
Start with the stadium itself.
OK, it may be too small for some tastes. But until there’s a demand for more seats, that’s not an issue and unless Tulane breaks the mold of other private non-Power Five schools, it won’t be for the foreseeable future.
Pre-opening concerns about parking have dissipated and some of the neighbors have even embraced the old Tulane tradition of driveway tailgating.
The other tailgating — in the Quad — has been a huge success. This is the game day experience that people wanted because it just wasn’t practical in the ‘Dome.
Inside the stadium, there were service glitches in the first couple of games, but they have been largely corrected.
The most impressive thing has been the turnout of the students. For the past four decades you wouldn’t have believed they knew Tulane had a football team.
They’ve brought life to the proceedings that the players certainly appreciate. One wonders how motivated past teams must have been playing in the empty Superdome.
And if the home side of Yulman sometimes look empty because folks want to congregate in the club seating area, well, those folks paid for the privilege to sit stay indoors if they so choose. Heck, I wouldn’t sit anywhere but in the press box and I didn’t have to pay a cent.
For those not coming to the games, the availability of almost every game on one of the prime ESPN or CBS channels has brought nationwide exposure to a far-flung alumni base, a major benefit of American Athletic Conference membership.
As for the team, 3-6 may not look too impressive. But program insiders will tell you that’s what was expected.
Youth and an upgraded schedule made a repeat of last season’s bowl trip a long shot at best.
That’s still possible, if unlikely.
But a missed 21-yard field goal in the final seconds of regulation in the opener against Tulsa turned an almost-certain victory into a double-overtime defeat. Win that, and the Wave is 4-5 and bowl eligibility at least on the table.
As it is, last Saturday’s victory at Houston was the Wave’s most impressive since the 2006 one at Mississippi State.
Tulane was an 18-point road underdog against a team tied for first place in the AAC and was shooting for bowl eligibility playing its homecoming game in its new stadium and with a 10-game winning streak in the series by an average score of 42.8-17.0.
When’s the last time the Wave won a game in those circumstances? LSU in 1982?
What’s more, all 31 of Tulane’s points were scored by true freshmen, and redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Lee had three touchdown passes, a milepost in how far he’s come.
The defense, with only three senior starters, ranks seventh in the country in takeaways with 25 and is 19th in turnover margin. That kind of play keeps you in games.
That’s another point. Tulane has demonstrated a talent level that makes it competitive with its AAC foes. While the league may not be as strong as Commissioner Mike Aresco likes to advertise (8-26 against other FBS schools), it’s still a step up from Conference USA.
That should portend Tulane competing for the Western Division championship next season when Navy comes on board to expand the league to 12 schools. It’s a reasonable expectation with an accompanying level of accountability, both of which have been in short supply at Tulane over the years.
But it’s also going to take less coaching gaffes than we’ve seen out of this staff. Curtis Johnson, the man Dickson hired, would be well-advised to add a full-time special teams coach and consider some other staff moves.
That’s where an athletic director doing due diligence comes into play.
But those issues don’t have to be addressed just yet.
Instead on Saturday, Dickson and the Tulane fans should enjoy homecoming, outside the stadium, in the stands and, perhaps even what happens on the field.
And, if you hear a buzzing sound, do as Dickson said he intends to do: “Don’t look up.”