Tulane Football Should Follow Northwestern’s Blueprint


Years ago before becoming a sports writer, every single time whenever conversation among friends turned to identifying who our favorite sports teams were, I often got the same response: “Yeah — but who’s REALLY your favorite team?”

It’s even harder to be taken seriously if you live in New Orleans or anywhere near Baton Rouge, La.; where the LSU Tigers dominate the talk year round.

The mere mention of Tulane football anywhere is usually followed up with a facial expression of confusion.

This is especially hard for people around these parts to swallow when they find out that you didn’t even go to the school as well.

The Green Wave faithful are hard to find. For myself, it takes dedication to just locate a Tulane hat for sale without visiting myriads of stores.

Tulane football squad at Fall Camp scrimmage at Yulman Stadium, August 15th, 2015 (Photo courtesy of TulaneGreenWave.com)

“It’s so hard to be green” said Kermit the Frog years ago. Little did I know how true that would be decades later. The good news is, that the Green Wave have a “blue print” to follow.

If you think Tulane football is bad, you don’t know college football.

Let’s take a look back at a team that truly defined the word “stunk” in the year 1981. The Northwestern Wildcats finished at 0-11 that year, but it is the way they lost that truly defines that team.

In that year, the Wildcats were outscored 505-82! That’s an incredible 423 point differential, if you’re counting it inside your head. It was as bad as bad can get.

Five of those losses came with shutouts. At one time, the Wildcats put together 34 straight losses. After a loss against Michigan St.,  the fans tore down the goalposts after getting drubbed 61-14 chanting “We’re the Worse!” in 1981.

There was a time period of 23 straight years where there was no winning seasons.

Sep 7, 2013; Evanston, IL, USA; A detail shot of a Northwestern Wildcats helmet during a game against the Syracuse Orange at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Things started to change for the better when Randy Walker arrived in 1999, helping to turn around the fortunes of the program and leading the Wildcats to a total of three bowl games in the years 1999-2005.

Unfortunately, Walker would die unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 52; leaving Northwestern fans stunned.

Enter his eventual successor Pat Fitzgerald into the mix, and it was then when things really started to click.

Fitzgerald closed his first season at 4-8 in 2006, then 6-6 in 2007. Subsequently, Fitzgerald would have five winning seasons out of the next eight.

The Northwestern Football team had just 5 winning seasons from 1971-2005. The bowl win in 2012 was their first since the 1948 Rose Bowl. To say that this was a turn around would be an understatement.

Since that time, Northwestern football is now here to stay. Northwestern finished 2015 at 10-3, with wins over ranked teams Wisconsin and Stanford. Stanford by the way, finished the season with a Rose Bowl win over Iowa 45-16 and was ranked in the top 6.

So what does Northwestern has to do with Tulane???

The similarities are astounding.

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Both schools are private schools that have close numbers as far as undergraduates. Tulane also is known for its academics just like Northwestern. There is the obvious comparison of long periods of losing seasons. Tulane actually doesn’t even compare to some of the horrid teams that Northwestern has put out in the 70’s and 80’s.

Willie Fritz is now the new football coach at Tulane. Is it a mere coincidence that the coaches from then and now are Fritz and Fitzgerald?

Who knows.

The fact is that Tulane has a new stadium, a new coach, and a new Athletic Director in Troy Dannen. Everything is in place for Tulane to start a winning tradition.

New Tulane head coach Willie Fritz (photo courtesy of sportsnola.com)

Yes I’m sure Greenie fans — especially those in NOLA and the surrounding community — have all heard it before, but I’m telling you this time is different.

Willie Fritz has already made an immediate impact in his first week in Spring practice:

"“I’ve got what we call a plan to win and I’ve done it for 23 years of being a head football coach. When we’ve been plus-1 in turnover takeaway, we’ve won 91 percent of our games. I’ve never lost a game plus-2 or better”"

Fritz is even having the players hand the ball off to the refs and the ball boys during practice.

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The though process is that in order to break the chain of losing, the players will need a “resetting” of the mind set. The tone is set to make winning a habit with practice. The only way to convince the skeptics will be to get wins when it counts.

Fritz’s vision isn’t just some type of a magic potion or an elixir.

His vision is clear: to bring Tulane football BACK to New Orleans.

And New Orleans could always use another reason to throw a party……