This matchup is more than a decade in the making for the New Orleans Bowl.
Tulane joined Louisiana-Lafayette as an official participant during a press conference at the Wilson Center on Tuesday afternoon, setting the stage for the all-Louisiana bowl game executive director Billy Ferrante has been waiting for since the game’s inception.
“This is the one we always wanted and the one we always talked about since we started this thing 13 years ago,” Ferrante said. “Bowl games nowadays are about regional matchups, and when we moved to Conference USA as our league to pair with the Sun Belt we always saw this as our best possibility.
“There is a good matchup, there’s a great matchup and there’s this one. We have literally looked forward to this for 13 years and today is a great day for the New Orleans Bowl and I think it’s a great day for these schools and the city.”
While the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt) still have a game to play at South Alabama on Saturday with a chance to win the schools’ first outright Sun Belt championship, Tuesday was a moment of celebration and reflection at Tulane.
The Green Wave’s official acceptance ended the school’s 11-year postseason drought, dating to its 36-28 win over Hawaii in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl. And coach Curtis Johnson said this is perfect venue for his program to take the next step.
“We will have the attention of a lot of people and recruits around here,” Johnson said. “I would have it no other way. It’s the best of both worlds and it’s absolutely awesome and outstanding. Now, we can have recruits on campus and they can come watch practice and do all sorts of stuff.
“Then they’ll be right here to watch us play and will have another opportunity to see us. I’m telling you, this is the bowl I really wanted. Well, this one or the Sugar Bowl.”
The exposure is two-fold for Ferrante and the New Orleans Bowl executives who said they expect to draw the largest crowd in the bowl’s history, eclipsing even the past two years in which UL-Lafayette defeated San Diego State and East Carolina in front of overwhelmingly Cajun-favored crowds.
With two local programs participating, Ferrante said the exposure in local press and amongst casual sports fans, coupled with the two fan bases, has put the bowl in an excellent position.
“It’s the single most important thing for us,” Ferrante said. “The more awareness and recognition of the program’s in the game draws a direct benefit to us and it helps us grow our brand locally. And that’s extremely important for us as we move forward.”