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Athletics: Sun Belt grants UL its name preferences

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Nov. 25, 2016

Confirming what officials from UL previously disclosed, the Sun Belt Conference on Wednesday revealed it has granted the Ragin’ Cajuns’ wishes regarding what they prefer to be called.

The name controversy has been a long and ongoing fight for the Cajuns, who now want – and have been granted, according to the SBC’s newly revised reference guide – “Louisiana” as their name on first reference, “Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns” as their nickname and “LA” as a short abbreviation when limited characters are used for statistical purposes and bottom-of-the-TV ticker lines used in reporting game scores.

“We are extremely excited we have reached this agreement with the Sun Belt Conference and (its) member institutions,” said Jessica Leger, UL’s newly appointed interim athletic director.

“Our reference and our abbreviation will definitely improve our visibility on a national level, which improves our national brand.

“Our program has evolved recently, and we’ve experienced great successes,” Leger added, “and we feel the timing is right to be known as ‘Louisiana,’ and we’re pleased the conference is giving us this opportunity to receive this national recognition.”

The guide is intended to encourage preferred name use for all SBC programs by media members and others, but it is not mandated.

UL’s official name remains the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for academic purposes, and it will continue to short-reference itself as “UL Lafayette,” according to the university.

UL earlier this month said it had reviewed its “brand standards,” and that “after discussions with its president’s office and the office of communications and marketing” it had opted to revise its first reference and abbreviation preferences.

In January 2014 the Sun Belt assigned UL with UL Lafayette as its first-reference athletics name and UL-L as its short abbreviation, something that – following much debate – was settled on after fellow SBC member UL Monroe prevented the Cajuns being called what they want.

Neither the Cajuns nor many of their fans were happy with the compromise, however, and most felt ULM won out.

So the Cajuns nevertheless continued using their preferred “Louisiana” on first reference, suggesting it was the first part of a modified nickname – Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns – that in reality they created with only as a way to get around the Sun Belt style guide.

Now the Sun Belt is going along with what they want.

It’s unknown why UL kept “Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns” as its nickname when it got its way with “Louisiana” on first reference, as now the program’s teams would be referred to as the “Louisiana Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns” when first reference and nickname usages are combined.

But that perhaps is a battle for another day.

“We talked about (that) since this press release has come out,” said Leger, who was not involved in the name-preference discussions.

“We’re fine with the way that it will read, because we are known as Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns and … we’re pleased with the recognition with the Louisiana name being presented nationally.

“That’s something we can evaluate in the future as a department,” she added, “and see if that’s a request we would put forward in the future – to possibly remove ‘Louisiana’ from the nickname.”

UL Monroe’s approved preferences for its first reference and short abbreviation are “ULM” for both, and it continues to use “Warhawks” for a nickname.

UL president Joseph Savoie dodged a question Tuesday asking what happened that made ULM and its president, Nick Bruno, allow the Cajuns to have their way, and if he (Savoie) was confident the Sun Belt would permit that.

Savoie’s response: “That’s an ongoing conversation.”

In reality, the issue already had been decided.

All leaders of Sun Belt-member universities were aware of each school’s preferences before they signed off on the new guide, which was created after SBC schools filled out a form to submit their requests.

No objections to UL’s preferences were raised.

Questions on the matter that were submitted to Bruno’s office via a ULM spokesman, including ones about why ULM did not object to UL’s preference and if there were any negotiations or concessions involved, were not immediately answered Wednesday.

The changes went into effect immediately.

“I was informed by all Sun Belt presidents and chancellors of what they wanted to use in terms of the Sun Belt standard guide,” Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said Wednesday, “and that is what we’re going with.

“I’ve always said from the beginning it is not the conference office’s responsibility or obligation to enforce or interpret any statutes or laws or provisions.

“We will refer to our member universities,” Benson added, “as they request.”