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Athletics: UL name issue out of hand

Kevin Foote, Daily Advertiser, Oct. 25, 2013

In the three decades that I’ve been around South Louisiana media and athletic scenes, I’ve seen a lot of controversies.

Some of them I’ve experienced up, close and personal and some I’ve just observed from afar.

There isn’t one, though, that is more misunderstood, more misinterpreted, invokes more anger and has so many different factions thinking and behaving irrationally than deciding which words to put before “Ragin’ Cajuns” when discussing UL’s athletic teams.

It’s remarkable to me how so many groups are so off-base in their thinking on this issue.

Let’s cut to chase.

UL wants to be the University of Louisiana one day, and there are people all over the state who don’t want them to do it.

Don’t get crazy. I realize that UL is still officially the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and may be forever. It still says it on the stationary. If you go to the university’s official website, it clearly says ‘University of Louisiana Lafayette’ at the top.

There’s no reason to run around claiming that UL’s changed the official name of the school without getting permission. That’s not the case.

Now, let’s look into the groups that are fighting it. This week, there was kick-back from the fine folks in the Monroe area. ULM and some of its supporters are very upset, claiming that UL is violating the original agreement that neither school would drop the city’s name.

Apparently, they don’t like UL athletic teams wearing jerseys that have “Louisiana” splashed across the front and encouraging TV networks to call them Louisiana or UL.

Two thoughts on that issue.

One, where was that mentality when ULM was doing the same thing? Before the Monroe campus got politically correct with Warhawks, you would have thought they were the Louisiana Indians. The sports teams’ uniforms had “Louisiana” across them with arrows through the big “L.” I had no problem with that.

Second, what took ULM so long to join the fight?

The instant both schools were allowed to be called the University of Louisiana, the battle should have begun.

One day — it may be 10 or 20 or 40 years from now — one of them is going to win.

If it’s a battle that ULM isn’t interested in fighting, then fine. If the driving forces behind that school feel like the best thing for its future is to be ULM, go for it.

But our university decided more than 30 years ago that the best thing for its long-term success is to be the University of Louisiana. Not today, but some day.

There are examples all over the nation of schools that, over time, dropped the name of the city. It may not be official, but it’s what they are called by the public and the media, i.e, the University of Texas-Austin and North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

That’s what UL feels is its path to success. If you don’t like the way the school is going about it, blame the state legislators (of the LSU variety I’m told) who wouldn’t let it do it through official channels in the early 1980s.

Truthfully, I don’t have a problem with ULM being petty about these issues. I didn’t have a problem with ULM wearing “Louisiana” jerseys years back. That’s what they were supposed to be doing. It’s call trying to pick up first downs, instead of simply punting on every down.

It’s supposed to be a competition. It seems ULM has chosen not to fight, but is criticizing the opponent for fighting. But that’s their choice.

Different paths to success

Some Louisiana schools have identified different paths to success.

Many around here, myself included, thought it was nuts when Louisiana Tech decided to play conference games in Hawaii and California. But if that’s what its administration felt was their avenue to long-term success, fine.

Did UL fans laugh at them every time Tech failed in that venture?

Yes, but that’s OK. Failing on the field doesn’t mean that the plan was wrong.

Western Kentucky decided its path to success was to leave the Sun Belt Conference.

Should UL fans have launched a media campaign based on some petty legal argument to keep them from leaving? No. That was their decision.

We’ll just chuckle every time the Hilltoppers lose to smaller-conference teams in the future.

It doesn’t make any sense to me that FIU claimed the Miami market to advance to Conference USA when no one in Miami cares the least bit about FIU, but if that’s what CUSA and FIU felt helped them pave a way to future success, go for it.

When UL decided to stay in Division I-A back in 1982 instead of dropping back to 1-AA with the rest of their old Southland Conference colleagues, I’m sure they all laughed every time the Cajuns lost.

Again, that’s fine. That’s natural. That’s what they’re supposed to be thinking. But it doesn’t mean that UL made the wrong decision.

When UL lost to Arkansas and Kansas State earlier this season, I’m sure fans from other schools around the state laughed and said “and they want to be the University of Louisiana, hah.”

That’s OK; it doesn’t mean that UL’s battle isn’t a justified one.

If UL crashes and burns along the way, then laugh at them and say “I told you so” as many times as you’d like. That’s fair. That’s natural. That’s what fans from McNeese or Nicholls or Northwestern or Tech are supposed to do.

It’s what UL fans are doing every time WKU, FIU, FAU and Middle Tennessee get beat.

What about LSU?

I have no problem with ULM fans or McNeese State fans being petty about UL’s business. I understand the rivalry there. But would someone please explain to me why LSU cares what UL does?

LSU is in the SEC and its athletic budget is gigantic. End of story.

It’s like a multi-millionaire getting upset because I got a bonus.

Then there are those who try to be funny.

“UL, that’s Louisville, right?”

Just because you think you’re a comedian, it still doesn’t mean UL’s perceived path to success is the wrong one.

Right now, I’m thinking about USC.

So who am I thinking about? It could be the Trojans or the Gamecocks. The point is that just because a school’s referenced name isn’t 100 percent clear to everyone nationally doesn’t mean the plan is flawed.

Another argument that’s been tossed around: UL is “too big for its britches.:

UL is the second largest school in this state. Why is it so far-fetched that they want to be known as the University of Louisiana someday?

Is Ohio University too big for its britches? It’s not called Ohio-Athens. But nobody is comparing it to Ohio State, either.

Should Indiana State be called Indiana-Terre Haute? Why? What’s wrong with them being Indiana State? They’re no threat to Indiana.

There are second-largest schools all over the country that don’t have the city’s name behind it in its mainstream usages.

The insanity stretches to UL fans as well. I’ve heard of Cajun fans getting irate at ESPN announcers who refer to the university as UL Lafayette or Louisiana-Lafayette or ULL.

Folks, they’re not from here. They don’t know. This isn’t their fight. This is a Louisiana battle.

If they were having some similar battle in their home state, we wouldn’t know or care about it.

It may never happen, but it really is time for everyone to take a deep breath and think about what they’re saying and what they’re thinking.

If you want to fight, fight.

If it’s not your fight, stop throwing silly criticisms at those in the ring.

If you don’t want to fight, stop trying to convince the referee to disqualify your opponent.