WODT-AM to broadcast Tulane games _lowres

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Yulman Stadium

Ultimately, of course, what happens on the field is what really matters.

But at Tulane, what goes on inside and outside Yulman Stadium matters, too. A lot.

So that’s why after getting generally good reviews about how things were done in its first year of operations — especially with traffic control and what school officials gingerly call “neighborhood relations” there will be some operational changes when the Green Wave opens Thursday night against Duke.

Most noticeable will be the easing of entering and exiting the stadium along with getting around inside.

The student gate — the breezeway underneath the Reily Center — will be open to all because the students tended to show up late anyway.

And after the game, fans can leave through the practice field instead of the regular gates to ease congestion.

Also, the time the lower concourses are blocked off so that players from both teams can get to and from the field will be shortened considerably, eliminating a major source of irritation for frustrated fans.

“We learned a lot last year,” Tulane executive associate athletic director Brandon MacNeil said. “First off, it’s that security is one thing, but don’t hold people up.”

For a school that hadn’t played football on campus for 40 years and whose stadium location, size and other amenities were the result of lot of compromises just to get built, Tulane did a remarkably efficient job in game-day operations last year.

That was in part because the school provide 1½ times the staffing it figured was needed. That’s been cut back in a few areas, such as eliminating the satellite parking at Ochsner-Jefferson, but not so you’d notice.

Plus, MacNeil said fans will benefit from things like extra merchandise stands and an upgraded food selection list in the Glazer Family Club.

Those watching on home games on TV might well think Tulane is playing in a different stadium than a year ago.

That’s because the primary cameras have been switched to a higher vantage point opposite the press box, Instead of a low angle shot that often featured empty seats because many of those patrons were inside the Glazer club, it will look more like other venues.

Of course, the object is to get people to come to the games, which never has been an easy feat at Tulane.

Last year’s home opener against Georgia Tech was a sellout.

The Duke game is far from that. An 8:30 kickoff on a weeknight — the price a school pays for having every game televised — when the Saints are also playing certainly doesn’t help.

Moreover, after a new-stadium spike last season, season tickets are down to about 10,000, largely the result of the Wave going 3-9.

“We knew we were at risk of losing some of our first-year group,” MacNeil said. “But we’re still above where we were the last couple of years in the ’Dome.”

To help make sure tickets are being used, the school has developed an app for fans not using theirs to make them available to people who will, and for students to print out theirs in advance rather than having to pick them up.

The student attendance is vital.

Almost nonexistent in the Mercedes-Benze Superdome, students were a visible and especially vocal presence last season, one the players appreciated.

“When we were on the road, we were always the other team,” junior guard Chris Taylor said. “And in the ’Dome, it was like there weren’t any fans for either team.

“But last year, everybody was close enough that we could hear them screaming for us. We finally felt like we were at home.”

The players even came up with a new name for the place, “The Oven,” a tribute to the heat that rises from the field’s turf during the team’s morning practices.

For the Wave, making that apply to what opponents feel would be nice, starting Thursday.

“I know people are down on us,” Taylor said. “Even some of the students I’ve talked to don’t think we can win.

“But once we get that first one, we’re going to have a lot of fans supporting us.”

Sounds like a promise. And if it’s kept, maybe that support will be there.

Get screened

Here’s good news: Screenings for prostate cancer are now simple blood tests, not, you know, so invasive.

Here’s better news: Free screenings are available on the second Tuesday of each month — that’s the one next week — at the Tulane Cancer Center, 150 South Liberty.

And while men — and those who love men — shouldn’t need to be reminded about the need for prostate screenings, Tulane will become the first team in the nation to wear blue patches to bring attention to Prostate Awareness Month.

For more information, call (504) 988-6300.