LSU stock

LSU's Baton Rouge campus

Students and fans flocked to bars around LSU's campus, taking advantage of a delay to the spring semester Monday night as the Tigers faced off against Clemson in the College National Football Championship.

At game time, the campus was eerily quiet while bellowing cheers could be heard from bars along Highland Road, blocks away from locked and dimly lit lecture halls. It was evident thousands of students took their parties to Bourbon Street and the Mercedez-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance while they're in school as students," said Jessica Tolan, a 27-year-old graduate student studying oceanography. "I don't blame them for wanting to go to New Orleans."

Last week, LSU's Board of Supervisors called off classes at the flagship campus for Monday and Tuesday — the first two days of the spring semester — so students could watch the and attend the game.

Board members approved the cancellation in a unanimous voice vote decision last week.

But the decision also means school leaders need to tweak this semester’s calendar, including figuring out new deadlines for financial aid and when students can add or drop classes.

Students with classes that only meet Mondays also won’t attend them until Jan. 27 because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday next Monday.

Interim LSU President Thomas Galligan brought up those concerns, saying last week that school leaders understand the enthusiasm for the special event, which also fell hours after Gov. John Bel Edward's inauguration for his second term.

University spokesman Ernie Ballard said school officials are reviewing possible changes to the school's calendar, including key academic deadlines, but have yet to make a decision.

It's the first time LSU has canceled classes for a special event.

The University of Alabama canceled classes when their football team played in the 2009 College Football Championship. In 2018, school officials in Georgia and Alabama didn't call off classes but asked professors to be flexible for students if possible.

Ohio State took a stricter stance in 2015 when their football team played in the championship game, warning students that missing classes could result in them getting dropped from them.

But none of those games were played so close to home turf like this year's championship finale, which organizers selected months in advance.

Natural science student Tyler Williams, 29, said he thought the board's decision was the right one because fewer students would have been able to shuttle to the game or they would have skipped class anyway.

For graduate students like him, the cancellation has little impact on his schedule. If anything, Williams said, it gives him extra time to work on his research before pivoting to help professors teach.

"It was nice that it was less busy on campus," he said.

Email Youssef Rddad at yrddad@theadvocate.com.