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Athletics: UL Lafayette may have gone too far, former president says – vote in poll

Claire Taylor, Daily Advertiser, Oct. 24, 2013

The Pride of Acadiana Marching Band performs for fans at the UL football tailgate at Cajun Field Oct. 5.

The Pride of Acadiana Marching Band performs for fans at the UL football tailgate at Cajun Field Oct. 5. / Paul Kieu, The Advertiser

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette can’t stop sportswriters and announcers from referring to its team as Louisiana, retired longtime university President Ray Authement said Wednesday.

But if the university is telling reporters to call the team Louisiana, it needs to be careful, he cautioned.

UL Lafayette has long referred to its athletic teams as Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, printing Louisiana across its football team’s jerseys.

The university may have gone too far this season, criticizing sports announcers for not calling the team Louisiana and even putting in its game notes that “much like our opponents around the country, we simply go by Louisiana when referring to our athletic programs.”

A news story in the The (Monroe) News-Star on Wednesday alleged UL Lafayette may be violating a state law by encouraging the sports media to call its football team Louisiana, especially for nationally televised games.

University of Louisiana System President Sandra Woodley, in a written statement Wednesday, said a 1998 Board of Supervisors policy dictates how universities may refer to themselves but does not address whether the stand-alone reference Louisiana is acceptable. The UL System oversees both UL Lafayette and ULM.

A 1995 state law said institutions in the University of Louisiana System could change their name to University of Louisiana if two schools did so at the same time and if they included the school’s geographic location in the name.

To gain the support of Northeast Louisiana University, Authement helped the Monroe school get into the same athletic conference as USL — the Sun Belt Conference. The deal was made and USL became University of Louisiana at Lafayette and Northeast Louisiana University became University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1999.

It was a large victory for Authement and the university but fell short of the original goal, which was to be called the University of Louisiana. Louisiana’s flagship public university, LSU, with its powerful alumni and legislative supporters, killed that attempt in the 1980s.

What the rules say

An excerpt of the policy, from the University of Louisiana System Office:
“The use of the two-letter University of Louisiana abbreviation, ‘UL,’ and/or the phrase ‘U of L’ are prohibited by the university or any of its affiliated organizations (alumni associations, development foundations, bookstores, etc.). For academic, public relations, athletic, as well as other purposes not specified, the use of the University of Louisiana abbreviation must always include the abbreviation for the municipal location of the institution. For example, ULR is appropriate for University of Louisiana at Rayne.”

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For some UL Lafayette supporters, including Authement, the loss still stings.

 

“I think we should be the University of Louisiana. Period,” Authement said Wednesday.

Short of that, Authement said he thinks the sports teams can use Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns without breaking the law.

“That doesn’t violate anything. That’s what we used on our athletic teams,” he said. “Some people drifted to the Louisiana.”

The university cannot stop the media from calling the university Louisiana or UL, Authement said. If the university is causing it, they have to look at the legal basis, he said.

Woodley wrote that a 1998 Board of Supervisors’ policy dictates how a university may refer to itself.

“The policy clearly states that none of our universities should use ‘University of Louisiana’ or the abbreviation ‘UL’ without including either the name or abbreviation of their geographical location,” she wrote.

The policy does not mention using Louisiana alone, Woodley wrote.

Some locals commenting on Facebook Wednesday didn’t see what the big deal was.

Pat Logan, a 1970 USL graduate, wrote, “UL, University of Louisiana, Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. All would be OK.”

“I live in Lafayette and love that our city name is broadcast all over the country,” Robert Duplechain wrote. “I don’t understand what the heck you guys are complaining about. And we are not UL! We are UL-Lafayette.”

Authement said he sought the name change in the 1980s to improve the university’s stature as an institution of higher learning. Trade schools at the time carried multidirectional names like southwestern — not universities, he said.