It’s Hall of Fame weekend at Tulane.
The shadow of homecoming has been removed from the annual Hall of Fame inductions by athletic director Troy Dannen, who purposely moved the event from the school’s most high-profile weekend in an attempt to generate some attention for the ceremony on its own merit.
This year’s inductees include: longtime athletic director Rick Dickson, first-round NFL draft pick J.P. Losman, All-American baseball player Tommy Manzella, three-time Conference USA champion javelin thrower Nathan Junius and 1,000-point women’s basketball scorer Jami Montagnino, a former Christian Life standout.
They will be enshrined in a ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday night in the Glazer Family Club at Yulman Stadium, a day before Tulane’s football team faces Louisiana-Lafayette. Tickets are available to the public for $100.
“The Hall of Fame deserves its own weekend and its own completely dedicated game to serve as a celebration for the people who laid the foundation for Tulane athletics,” Dannen said. “I’m a big believer in having each home game be centered around some event, and so to get Hall of Fame away from homecoming really gives the inductees a chance to have the spotlight shown directly on them.”
While the four players will earn the bulk of attention during the ceremony, the most intrigue is directed toward Dickson, who stepped down from his post this summer after 16 years atop the athletic department. He earned the Billy Slatten Award despite leaving Tualne less than three years ago, which is the typical waiting period for induction.
Dannen said he recommended the Hall of Fame committee to expedite Dickson’s election because his role in building the school’s athletic infrastructure, getting into the American Athletic Conference and helping save the department following a board review in 2003 and Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005.
“I strongly encouraged and recommended the committee to consider Rick,” Dannen said. “The typical three-to-five-year wait is arbitrary, and it’s something that can be set aside. Rick leaves behind an amazing legacy at Tulane. Now, as he’s just retired, that legacy is really shining bright when you consider how he’s set up this department for the future.
“To me, it just made more sense to recognize him now, than to wait three to five years because by any stretch that you would measure an athletic administrator getting into the Hall of Fame, he hits all of them.”
The other four inductees all played during Dickson’s tenure.
However, a pocket of fans have expressed displeasure because of the struggles of Tulane’s football and men’s basketball program under Dickson’s direction. In 16 seasons, Tulane reached just two bowl games and earned a single NIT invitation with zero NCAA tournament appearances.
Since arriving in December of 2015, Dannen has spoken often about his desire to change the culture at Tulane but said it’s not a reflection upon the previous administration.
“I walked into a fantastic opportunity, and Rick was the architect of what was here for me,” Dannen said. “To be able to stand at the podium and salute him is an honor, so there’s no awkwardness at all. It’s very unique, and I would rather follow someone who is a Hall of Famer than someone who isn’t any day of the week.”
The inductees will be honored during halftime of Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., part of a full weekend focused around the Hall of Fame.
It’s an opportunity that Tulane administrators have pointed to as an attempt to re-connect with former players who may have been overshadowed in the past.
“Now that we are on campus and homecoming has blown up with all of the stuff around it, we were worried that this was getting lost in the shuffle a bit,” executive associate athletic director Brandon Macneill said. “We thought this was a great way to make this weekend really about the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Famers for all they did. We just decided to give it its own place, and now there’s more attention on it, so it’s a win for everyone involved.”