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Football: New UL first-down cheer may be permanent

Kevin Foote, Daily Advertiser, Dec. 3, 2013

UL is defeated 31-28 by UL Monroe in an NCAA football game Saturday at Cajun Field in Lafayette. / Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser

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When UL public address announcer Hans Nelson first began the tradition five years ago, he never imagined it would one day create such a stir.

One of Nelson’s calling cards as a game announcer is how he handles first downs. When UL earns that field position, Nelson prompts the crowd with a lead-in phrase, “That’s another Louisiana…,” to which the fans respond by yelling “first down!” in unison.

When it became obvious in the first quarter of UL’s 31-28 loss to ULM on Saturday that Nelson wasn’t going to be prompting the crowd as usual, Ragin’ Cajun fans began scratching their heads.

Instead of the usual prompt, “Fast Eddie” – as Nelson is known on his day job at Big 102.1 FM – simply said “that’s another…” and the fans picked up the slack with “Louisiana first down.” Nelson never said the word “Louisiana.”

The change may not have gone over well with Cajun fans at the time, but university officials suggested in a statement Monday that it may become the norm.

“It’s a lot more impressive when 25,000-plus fans chant, so the announcer prompted them Saturday by just saying “That’s another…” Our fans completed the phrase in unison: “… Louisiana first down,” Cajuns’ Athletics Director Scott Farmer said in a statement.

“The intent was to give them ownership of the slogan and to increase their engagement.”

The exact reason for the change has still not been made public. Nelson said the new version of the first-down call was the result of he and school officials devising a way of tweaking it without losing the actual words that were said.

“When I started it five years ago,” Nelson said. “I actually explained to the fans how it was going to work. Back then, there weren’t as many fans in the stands and it still took two games to get it right.

“It was incredible Saturday night. They picked it right up on the third time. I was really nervous the first two times. The third time gave me chills.”

In recent months, UL’s desire to be known as Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns has sparked debate among fans and other schools in the state’s university system. The Cajun athletic program prefers “UL“ to “ULL.” It encourages the use of “Louisiana” over “Louisiana-Lafayette.”

It abhors the incorrect standalone reference of “Lafayette.” At least some of those preferences, however, are in conflict with the wishes of in-state rival UL Monroe.

Nelson said the increased fan involvement in the tradition “is a good thing,” and that his No. 1 priority Saturday was that the exact words used in the five-year tradition when the Cajuns make a first down didn’t change.

Farmer also responded to the use of ‘Cajuns’ and ‘Warhawks’ on the scoreboard in Saturday’s game.

“The use of teams’ nicknames, such as the Cajuns and Warhawks, on the scoreboard is not new,” Farmer said. “We did the same thing this year when we hosted Nicholls State and New Mexico State.”

In fact, Farmer suggested that he expects the treatment to go both ways.

“Last year, when the Cajuns played in Monroe, we were disappointed when we were referred to on the scoreboard as ULL, which is not our abbreviation or nickname,” he said. “We want to be hospitable at Cajun Field, and at all of our other facilities, and treat the visiting team the way we would like to be treated.

“The football team’s nickname, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, hasn’t changed. And, the University’s branding efforts for Athletics remain the same.”