False starts, missed audible signals that lead to turnovers or just the inability to hear a teammate are benefits teams get from playing with a good home-field advantage. That’s unless you’re the Tulane Green Wave and have been playing in perhaps college football’s biggest home-field “dis” advantage, the Mercedes Benz Superdome for the past 39 seasons. This is all set to change Sept. 6 when they open the campus located 30,000 seat Yulman Stadium against Georgia Tech. In addition to the new stadium, the school is now part of the American Athletic Conference and will renew acquaintances with Conference USA foes the University of Houston and Southern Methodist University.
Having an on-campus stadium provides a number of benefits to fans, current players and future recruits that will lead to more consistent success for the program.
While the Mercedes Benz Superdome is only three miles from the Tulane campus, there is something about being able to walk from your dorm room to the stadium on game day that can’t be replicated in a shuttle bus or car ride. College football is just as much about the events leading up to the game as it is the game itself: alumni returning to visit the campus, tailgating and the team walking through campus prior to kick-off are part of what makes the gameday experience exciting. Those intimate moments are part of what the Tulane students missed and it showed in the lack of support.
Since 2008, the average attendance for Green Wave home games was only 5,485 with some games plummeting below 2,500. For a 30,000 seat stadium that still is unacceptable, but in the massive Superdome that seats 73,000 it appears as if the stadium is empty.
For a recruit that perception of non-support fuels the subconscious reality that if he chooses to play for Tulane no one will be at his games, and that’s a hard pill to swallow for prep stars in the southwest who may be accustomed to having larger crowds at high school games. Subsequently, the inability to attract enough talent has hurt the program — since 2000 they have had only three winning seasons.
Playing in a more competitive conference will also be beneficial to recruiting as well. As much as recruits want to play with talented players, they also want to play against them — and be properly rewarded at the end of the season if the team plays well. What’s more enticing to a recruit: Playing in a conference that could send its champion to the college football playoffs or one that sends its conference champion to the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tn.? While many argue whether the AAC still deserved its automatic BCS bid, UCF last year and Louisville the year before proved that, if given the chance, teams from this conference can compete with anyone.
Where they play on the road has a big influence as well. Instead of relying on establishing recruiting ties in the state of Texas through trips to San Antonio and El Paso, the Green Wave staff will now have the talent rich cities of Dallas and Houston on their travel itinerary. These trips should be used to follow up on relationships that are being established now during the open recruiting season as the program attempts to cast a wider recruiting net.
These newfound advantages should keep the program on an upward pendulum of success that third year head coach Curtis Johnson started in 2013 when the team finished 7-6.