home sitesearch sitemap contact fan about
  Submit/Update Profile  

Search the Network:

Athletics: Rebuilding America – UL plan is to prepare for fans

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 28, 2020

Click here –  Lift your spirits and take a look at UL’s athletic fields as seen from the air through footage from Lafayette photography and videography company Viznu. Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Whether any Ragin’ Cajun fans will be able to watch football games this year at Cajun Field, where filling the stadium is a challenge for UL even in good times, remains an unknown for now due to uncertainty prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But Cajun athletic officials hope they will, especially in light of current economic hard times.

For fiscal year 2019, which includes the 2018 football season, total revenue for the UL athletic department was about $32.5 million and total expenses were about $37.1 million.

Reality suggests the gap could grow wider due to budget shortfalls stemming from the coronavirus crisis.

Yet the pandemic has not slowed the Cajuns from planning to sell tickets for the 2020 season as UL and the rest of the country figures out how it will rebuild in the weeks and months to come.

“Until we hear otherwise,” UL athletic director Bryan Maggard said, “we have to prepare (for), and assume, and work toward, a Sept. 1 start date.

“(Until) we get direction as to what we will or will not be able to do, we want to just try to have different models in place that will get us to as close to being prepared as possible once we know for sure what if any restrictions will be put in place.”


The first FBS games nationwide actually are currently scheduled for Aug. 29, and UL’s opener is slated for Sept. 5 against McNeese at Cajun Field.

More: A day in UL coach Napier’s new life opens with school

The Cajuns also have home games scheduled Sept. 12 against Wyoming, Sept. 26 vs. Georgia Southern, Oct. 17 vs. Coastal Carolina, Nov. 5 vs. Arkansas State and Nov. 14 against South Alabama.

Maggard said his athletic department’s plan starts with work with campus administration officials as the school figures out how exactly how its 2020-21 academic calendar will unfold.

The UL system recently announced intentions for all of its universities, including UL, to soon return to in-person classes.

The university went to virtual instruction only after the virus shut it down in March.

“There’s an executive committee on campus in charge of reopening processes and policies,” Maggard said.

“We’ll be working in conjunction with them on transitioning and repopulating our student-athletes back to campus in June. All of that will comply with Governor’s orders, CDC recommendations, NCAA resocialization recommendations — all that kind of stuff.”

UL started its season ticket renewal process for football before the coronavirus shut down college sports nationwide in mid-March, and its deadline for that passed earlier this month.

“So now we’re calling people just to confirm yes or no, ‘Do you want to renew?’ if they did not yet,” Maggard said.

“Then we go through our normal upgrade process — any available seats we want to upgrade to, we give them that opportunity. And then here sooner we’ll open to the general public. I would say probably around early June we’ll do that.”

Much like it would any year.

Yet the Cajuns still have no idea if state, federal, conference and NCAA guidelines will even permit fans to enter Cajun Field, whose listed capacity is 41,426.

Having paying customers in the seats, though, is critical for a program like UL’s, especially in light of its recent seasons with struggles at the gate.

The Cajuns went 11-3 but averaged only 18,203 in attendance for its seven home games in 2019, including six at Cajun Field and one at the Superdome in New Orleans against Mississippi State.

More: Nephew of Saints Hall-of-Famer commits to the Cajuns

That’s nearly 11,000 down from a high of 29,171 in 2011.

In 2018, ticket revenue from Cajun home football games was up 8 percent — after declining nearly 29 percent the prior year, when amid a 5-7 season, attendance averaged just 15,751.

So if fans are permitted this year, that makes having a plan in place to accommodate them and fill however many seats they can that much more important.

“Once we get through this student-athlete repopulation plan,” Maggard said, “then we’ll switch our focus fully over to designing different models from a fan attendance standpoint.

“But, really, no different from knowing if we’re going to have a season or not, we don’t even know what type of requirements have to be in place for fan attendance.

“But we’ll look at different models and try to develop them,” he added, “whether it’s providing social distance space in-between fans to how people enter the complex or the stadium — all that kind of stuff.”

UL clearly would take paying customers, even if they are spaced out, over an empty house.

And that’s not about dollars; it’s about common sense.

“If we would be allowed to play but it can only be done without fans,” Maggard said, “I think we would need to proceed that way.

“If that’s what the league, the country, is doing, then we would certainly do that. But by all means our preference would be to play in front of fans, even if there had to be limits on capacity.

Read more UL Cajuns football news:

“But first and foremost,” Maggard added, “safety of everybody is gonna be our priority, just like it will be with every other program in America.”

It’s all about the safety for Cajuns coach Billy Napier too.

“I think the most important thing here is we’ve got to base all of our decisions off of staff and player safety,” he said, “and then certainly the fan experience is gonna be based off the same things.”

Atmosphere is one reason the fans are favored.

Economics is another.

Because if no tickets are sold, the Cajuns — like all other programs — lose a large chunk of revenue vital to their overall athletic department budget.

“It’s certainly one of our main revenue streams,” Maggard said. “And it’s not just ticket sales.

“It’s (also) the RCAF annual fund revenue that’s associated with a football season, whether it be parking, tailgating, per-seat donations and initiatives.

“If ticket sales are impeded,” the athletic director added, “it has a ripple effect on other revenue streams for us. … So certainly any impact on that is going to have an impact on our overall budget and our overall revenue.”