Lance Dupre and his bride-to-be, Kylie, planned their wedding day around the LSU football season.
Well, kind of.
“She had the date picked out already,” said Dupre, a 26-year-old avid Tigers fan from Lafayette. “I saw that it was an away game so I was like, ‘OK, it’s fine.’”
Dupre had the day planned out perfectly – all based on LSU’s game scheduled to start at 11 a.m. in South Carolina.
He and his groomsmen would wake up Saturday morning, crack open some beer, open the Bourbon and watch the game. It would end well before a videographer arrived to film the wedding party slipping into their tuxedos. At 6 p.m., they’d hop in a limousine for the ceremony.
And now? LSU is playing at home in Tiger Stadium, Dupre is hoping everyone shows up for his dang wedding and that videographer will be in for a rude awakening.
“Now he’s going to be filming us watching the game,” Dupre laughed.
Weddings. Dance parties. Receptions. Birthdays. Christenings. Vacations.
In southeast Louisiana, many of these events are booked, planned, scheduled and organized based on where and when the beloved Tigers are playing.
After all, LSU has won two national championships and three conference titles in the last 12 years, and the Tigers are currently 4-0, ranked No. 7 in the nation and possessing, arguably, the nation’s best football player.
And – GASP! – they’re playing at home Saturday when they were supposed to be playing some 750 miles away in Columbia, South Carolina. Massive flooding in Carolina resulted in the game’s relocation to Baton Rouge – a rare step that’s only been taken by a Southeastern Conference team just one other time: LSU traveled to Arizona State after Hurricane Katrina hit. That was supposed to be a home game.
“It’s very unusual,” LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday.
The effects of such a move have swept through southeast Louisiana.
Tailgaters are rushing to stores for supplies. Engaged couples marrying Saturday, like Lance and Kylie, are hoping the game doesn’t dent their attendance. Hotels, mostly empty Wednesday morning, are mostly full.
Restaurant and bar owners are ramping up food and alcohol orders, increasing staffers and scheduling bands and DJs at the last minute.
The craziest thing might be the wedding on campus at the LSU Faculty Club, originally scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday that’s been moved back to 7:30.
The LSU football team and the program’s long-time public address announcer couldn’t dodge the effects either. The team is staying at a Hilton in Baton Rouge because its customary night-before-the-game hotel, the on-campus Cook Hotel, is too full.
Dan Borne, Tiger Stadium’s booming voice for the last 30 years, is missing just his second football game because he had made other plans.
He’s ministering – you guessed it – a wedding.
“Social calendars are planned around LSU football,” Borne said. “Weddings are planned around that. Trips are planned around that.”
Bill Franques, the PA announcer at Alex Box Stadium, will replace Borne in the Tiger Stadium booth. He did the same in a 2006 game against Kentucky. LSU won that game 49-0.
“Hopefully Bill Franques will go to 2-0 on his record,” Borne said with a laugh.
The Tigers are favored to win the game by as much as 19 points over a Steve Spurrier-coached South Carolina team that’s slumped to a 2-3 start in its first five games. The game will officially be considered South Carolina’s home game.
LSU is treating the game as if it were on the road. For instance, the school can’s host recruits on the sidelines, and the program won’t allow its usual amount of fans, boosters and others to be on the field during and before the game.
Spurrier, Carolina’s colorful 11-year coach, has a message for LSU’s fans – technically visitors watching a game in their home arena.
“If you do come, try to be a little quiet when South Carolina has the ball. OK. Alright. Thanks,” Spurrier says on a recording playing on 104.9 FM meant to encourage fan interest in the game.
Miles has a message for the fans, too, about this unexpected event.
“I would say to them to put away their fishing rod for this weekend,” he said. “That weekend you were going to take your wife some place because there wasn’t a home game, that you postpone those plans and pull the RV up and start cooking and you come back to your comfortable confines of your Tiger Stadium and start making a lot of noise.”
LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva declined to reveal an expectation for attendance Wednesday. The school had sold more than 36,000 tickets as of Thursday evening, said ticket official Brian Broussard. A majority of the 36,000 came during the time that only season ticket holders and students were allowed to buy tickets. Six thousand student tickets were sold. General admission tickets went on sale at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Andrew Robichaux won’t be one in attendance Saturday. The 23-year-old from Baton Rouge will miss his first home LSU game since high school. He’s heading to New Orleans for a bachelor party.
“All of us went to LSU and all of us are LSU fans,” the Catholic High graduate said. “The reason we had the bachelor party then in the first place was because it was an away game. All of us were upset – even the groom to be. He was upset too.”
Any thoughts of rescheduling?
“Nah. We’re all going to be together drinking,” Robichaux said. “It’s going to be a tailgate on the road.”
Zach Rau will be tailgating in the shadow of the stadium. He’s not missing an LSU home game – no sir. The quiet weekend he was scheduled to have with his girlfriend? It’s turned into a rocking good time – rife with mimosas, pulled pork tacos and beer. Lots of beer.
Rau, a 26-year-old who graduated from LSU in 2012, is scrambling to make his tailgate plan. He’s as serious as a tailgater comes – a barbecue freak. Rau will spend about $100 on this unbudgeted tailgate.
He’ll smoke 40-50 pounds of pork for about 12-14 hours and serve about 50 of those pork tacos. He’ll scramble eggs and roast potatoes, too. He’ll have champagne for mimosas and, of course, beer. Lots of beer.
“I’m not expecting a whole lot of people,” he said when interviewed Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning, he contacted a reporter.
“I’m pretty much doing a normal tailgate now with a spread of about 45 pounds of pork since it seems like lots of people are coming to this game,” he wrote in a message.
Jared Murphy knows the feeling. He’s the general manager of the Walk-On’s on Burbank Drive, just a block from Tiger Stadium.
His Saturday just got a lot busier. He had to double his staff to more than 50 people and ordered more of everything – food, alcohol, etc. He had to rush to schedule a band for the restaurant’s post-game tradition – live music on the patio.
Walk-On’s plans to have an optional cover charge for Saturday night, Murphy said.
“Anything we collect, we’re going to donate to families in South Carolina affected by the flooding,” he said.
Hotels were affected – in the best of ways. Take for example, the Crowne Plaza Resort on Constitution. The hotel sold out of more than 150 rooms in a matter of a few hours after the relocation was announced Wednesday at about noon, said Bry Millet, who works in guest services at Crowne Plaza.
“Phones haven’t stopped,” she said Wednesday.
Has she seen anything like this before?
Said Millet: “Only LSU football.”
Dupre, meanwhile, will be in a hotel room Saturday, hurriedly putting on his tuxedo for the big day while watching the Tigers and the Gamecocks in what’s likely to be a half-filled Tiger Stadium. He’s confident he can catch the entire game of the 2:30 p.m. kickoff before the limo arrives at 6 p.m.
Thanks goodness, he said, the game wasn’t at night. What would he have done then? He had already spoken to his wife about it.
“I was going to call the wedding planner and try to get a TV in the ceremony for sure,” he said. “She was alright with that.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.