For years, we’ve been waiting on the day when LSU would announce it will finally play Southern and Grambling in football.
As it turns out, considering the state of our troubled world, the timing could not have been better.
LSU released the news Monday that it will host Southern’s Jaguars in Tiger Stadium on Sept. 10, 2022, and Grambling’s Tigers on Sept. 9, 2023.
For Death Valley, nearing its 100th anniversary in 2024, finally hosting Louisiana’s two most prominent historically black universities will be history-making indeed.
Will they be competitive football games? Considering Southern lost 54-17 at Louisiana Tech in 2018 while Grambling lost 43-14 to Tulane and 49-17 to UL in recent years — probably not.
But that’s not the point, really. There are times, especially in these turbulent times, when the mere concept of the sporting event transcends the actual event and what the final score will be. That said, LSU’s marching band had better bring its “A” game on those nights, because Southern and Grambling’s bands, engaged every year in their high-stakes game of school pride at the Bayou Classic, play for keeps. And you can believe SU and GSU fans will be keeping score of which band they think is better (though I'm pretty sure they already have their minds made up).
LSU executive deputy athletic director Verge Ausberry, who is in charge of football scheduling, said it is a time of healing. Athletic director Scott Woodward said the game days will be “days to celebrate.”
There was a time when I personally thought LSU playing Southern and Grambling in football might not be the best idea ever invented. Were LSU to rout SU or GSU, it could lead to hard feelings within the community.
LSU finalized plans to play Southern and Grambling in football for the first time in LSU history, school officials announced Monday.
But when LSU committed to a course in the early 2000s under then-athletic director Skip Bertman of taking on all the football-playing schools in the state (there are 11 in all), then these games had to eventually be part of the list.
If this coronavirus-threatened season goes off as scheduled, Nicholls State will visit Tiger Stadium on Oct. 3 for the first time, following Tulane, UL, Southeastern Louisiana, McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State and UL-Monroe. That leaves Southern and Grambling as the only Louisiana football-playing schools to check off the list. The circuit is complete.
It has been a long time coming for sure. Southern played at Georgia in 2015. Grambling played in classics all over the country under the late Eddie Robinson, as well as games at Pittsburgh, Oklahoma State, TCU, California and Arizona in recent seasons. Games that dictated that these matchups in their home state’s biggest venue needed to take place.
On an anxiety-filled Monday afternoon as I write this column, I am thinking ahead to those fall Saturdays two and three years hence. Hopefully by then a coronavirus vaccine or vaccines has long since rendered this pandemic a retreating if still painful memory. That would allow for Tiger Stadium to be packed with 102,000 fans in purple and gold for LSU and blue and gold for Southern, followed by the black, red and gold of Grambling. There would be many thousands more as well on campus, enjoying sweaty but happy tailgate parties beneath the oaks.
Hopefully by then as well the protests and riots and civil disobedience of today will be replaced by civil understanding, and dare we say it, harmony. Fervent fans of all three teams brought together by love of school and football and barbecue, and maybe a beer or two.
It is something refreshingly hopeful to look forward to in these gloomy days. We can thank the common bond of sports for that.
After all the hard work and burdens that 2020 has brought us, hopefully we can say to the Tigers and Jaguars and Tigers, “Go play. We’ll be glad to watch.”