UL athletics: A decade of memorable wins, hard losses
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, Dec. 30, 2019
There were highs. There were lows.
There was winning – lots of it – and a loss that hit harder than most.
There was plenty of change too, with familiar faces leaving and new ones taking over. And as the seasons came and went, so too did the names – the kids, the coaches, even the administrators – making it happen for UL athletics.
With all that in mind, a look at 10 of the biggest storylines for the Ragin’ Cajuns in a decade – 2010 through 2019 – coming to a close:
1. OWNING NEW ORLEANS
For four straight seasons from 2011 through 2014, UL painted New Orleans red.
The Cajuns won the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome each time during that span, although two of the victories later were vacated (more on that later).
Kicker Brett Baer celebrates his game-winning field with quarterback Blaine Gautier after UL's 2011 New Orleans Bowl win over San Diego State. (Photo: File photo)
They would return to the New Orleans Bowl in 2016, losing to Southern Mississippi.
It’s what happened before that, though, that has a permanent place in Cajun lore.
UL beat San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and Nevada during their first four New Orleans Bowl appearances, starting with – who can ever forget – an illegal stemming penalty followed by Brett Baer’s 50-yard walk-off, make that run-off, field goal in ’11.
In early November that year, the Cajuns had a crazy comeback victory at Cajun Field over in-state rival UL Monroe. It was a signature win early in Mark Hudspeth’s Cajun coaching career, and especially sweet.
Sharing time in the UL backfield for both of the last two New Orleans wins were two future NFL running backs, Alonzo Harris and Elijah McGuire. Theirs are a couple big names.
But the biggest play was Baer’s kick, one for the ages and the largest of the decade, without a doubt, for the Cajuns.
2. END OF AN ERA
A trio of controversies midway through the decade would mark the beginning of the end of the seven-season Hudspeth coaching era.
The Cajuns had to vacate 22 of their wins under Hudspeth, including their 2011 and ’13 New Orleans Bowl victories, due to a recruiting-related NCAA scandal.
Late in 2016, a video surfaced showing Cajun players dancing and singing along as a profanity laced anti-Donald Trump song blared in their lockerroom. The fallout was impactful, as Hudspeth caught plenty of flak from certain program supporters for his response to the matter.
A few months later, in April 2017, 13 Cajuns were arrested and charged with a felony – later reduced and/or dropped – when they were caught on video stealing personal belongings from the dorm room of a teammate who had been arrested and charged with sexual assault.
With the Cajuns also struggling on the field, it all amounted to too much and Hudspeth – who had replaced the fired Rickey Bustle after the 2010 season – was let go one day after losing 63-14 at Appalachian State and finishing 5-7 in 2017, UL’s third straight losing season.
Former UL coach Mark Hudspeth was let go after the 2017 season. (Photo: File photo)
3. A NEW BEGINNING
Hudspeth was replaced by Billy Napier, a former Clemson and Arizona State offensive coordinator and ex-Alabama receivers coach who promptly produced back-to-back Sun Belt Conference West Division championships.
Napier also delivered back-to-back bowl bids late in the decade, with UL losing to Tulane at the 2018 Cure Bowl in Orlando and now preparing to play Miami (Ohio) at the Jan. 6 DollarTree Bowl in Mobile.
4. THE BIG DANCE
The UL basketball team has been coached for most of the decade by Bob Marlin, who was hired away from Sam Houston State in 2010.
The highlight of Marlin’s run with the program: an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014.
UL also had a heated NIT loss to LSU in 2018, when Marlin won his second of two Sun Belt regular-season championships along with one in 2011.
But the season that won’t be forgotten is 2013-14, when the Cajuns recorded a satisfying win over Georgia State and then-rival coach Ron Hunter in the Sun Belt Tournament title game before losing a tough one to Creighton at San Antonio in the first – and only – game of the decade that Marlin took them dancing.
He did it with two future NBA players, big man Shawn Long and current New York Knicks point guard Elfrid Payton, leading the way.
Elfrid Payton tries to steal the ball from National Player of the Year Doug McDermott during UL's 2014 NCAA Tournament game against Creighton. (Photo: File photo)
5. LOTIEF TO GLASCO
Mike Lotief, the head of UL’s wildly successful and regularly nationally ranked softball program, was fired late in 2017 amid allegations by the university regarding his behavior as a coach.
Lotief – who helped take the Cajuns to the Women’s College World Series once in the decade, 2014, and three times overall, was replaced by Gerry Glasco.
Glasco, a former Georgia and Texas A&M assistant, promptly delivered back-to-back NCAA Regional appearances in 2018 and ’19.
6. A MEMORABLE SEASON
The nationally ranked UL baseball program had plenty of success throughout the decade, making five NCAA Regional appearances and two Super Regional appearances during the 10-year span.
But no season was more memorable than 2014, when the Cajuns – led by outfielder Caleb Adams, second baseman Jace Conrad and future major-league shortstop Blake Trahan on the field and at the plate, and by Matt Hicks, Austin Robichaux and Carson Baranik on the mound – went 58-10.
Ranked No. 1 nationally at times that year, UL had seven players drafted and hit 68 home runs before being eliminated by Ole Miss with a tough-to-take loss in the third and deciding game of a Super Regional it hosted.
7. THE LOSS OF ROBICHAUX
UL’s baseball team was rocked in the summer of 2019 by the death of coach Tony Robichaux following a heart attack.
His loss hit the community especially hard, in a way none on the field, court or diamond could.
Robichaux coached the Cajuns for 25 seasons, taking them to the College World Series once, and his passing – followed by the hiring of a former assistant, Matt Deggs – changed the face of a program built on a foundation of integrity and hard work.
Late UL coach Tony Robichaux, left, talks to son Austin Robichaux (12) on the mound at The Tigue. (Photo: File photo)
8. TWO WBI WINS
Garry Brodhead, head coach of the UL women’s basketball for most of the decade after replacing Errol Rogers, enjoyed a 25-10 season in 2015-16.
Brodhead’s Cajuns capped that season by winning the Women’s Basketball Invitational, doing it with four straight wins including one in double overtime over Weber State in the championship game at Earl K. Long Gym.
It was the second straight WBI title for UL, which also beat Sienna in a two-point championship game at Earl K. Long.
9. AT THE TOP
Change at the top of the UL athletic department came first in the decade in 2011, when Scott Farmer was promoted to replace the outgoing David Walker, and again late in 2016 and early in 2017, when Farmer was fired and longtime Missouri assistant Bryan Maggard was hired to replace him.
Under Farmer’s watch, UL began an athletic facilities masterplan that included construction of an athletic performance center, the expansion and addition of end zone seating at Cajun Field and the beginning and/or of several other projects.
Shortly after Maggard arrived, major renovation of the school’s baseball stadium was completed. Major football stadium renovation awaits.
Maggard’s first major moves including the firing of Lotief and hiring of Glasco, the firing of Hudspeth and hiring of Napier, the firing of longtime women’s soccer coach Scot Wieland followed by the hiring of Lance Key, and the hiring of Deggs.
10. SUN BELT CHANGE
The decade also saw plenty of change in the conference to which UL belongs.
Karl Benson replaced Wright Waters as commissioner of the league early in 2012, and after Benson stepped down earlier this year he was replaced by former Atlantic-10 Executive Associate Commissioner Keith Gill.
Under Benson’s command, the Sun Belt expanded its roll of bowl affiliations from two to five, saw increased television and multimedia coverage of its teams by ESPN networks and underwent a major transformation in membership.
Lost as full-time members: Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Florida International, each in which fled for Conference USA. Replacing them: Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Texas State, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina.
UL women's basketball coach Garry Brodhead bumps fists with athletic director Bryan Maggard during a game against Mississippi State this season. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network)