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Five questions on Tulane

Frank from the Tulane blog Frank Helps You Think it All Out contacted me about doing one of these, so here you go.

On the Banks: Rutgers fans remember Tulane's 12-0 season in 1998. The Green Wave came to Piscataway and won going away, denying coach Terry Shea his only chance at a winning season at Rutgers. Tommy Bowden left for Clemson after that season. What's the cliff notes version of recent Tulane football history for readers who aren't familiar with the program?

That run through 1997-2004 was not too shabby: a top ten national ranking, a pair of Bowl victories, some good national wins, cheery crowds from 20-40K. There is no Boise State and TCU without Tulane providing the season to get a non-BCS team into the big Bowls. The baseball team went to the CWS twice. The basketball team was a little down- but had recently played and won in three separate NCAA Tournaments.

Then Hurricane Katrina gobsmacked New Orleans. Tulane lost three recruiting classes. Coaches were not recruiting, high schools were closed or had discontinued athletics while trying to get the building(s) put back up, population dispersed. There was no money for sports and facilities. Other schools poached our athletes and commitments. Our programs simply collapsed.

On the Banks: Bob Toledo is 9-27 through his first three seasons at Tulane. Are you optimistic with the current
direction of the football program?

Tulane almost has to get better. Their natural state in the pecking order is just simply not rock bottom. Damn, even third-tier recruits in Louisiana, Mississippi and East Texas should be enough to play with Marshall and Memphis?

The last two recruiting classes have been much better. Tulane is starting to get a few three-star recruits again and good transfers from BCS schools looking for playing time. Since Matt Forte graduated a few years ago, they’ve had one all C-USA player. They might have six (two were transfers) this year.

Before Katrina, they were a decent C-USA team that could get to a small Bowl game every few years. They could get top skill player (a first 50 selected NFL draft pick every other year or so): Shaun King, Patrick Ramsey, JP Losman, Mwelde Moore, Matt Forte. I imagine, as the status quo reasserts itself, they’ll get back to something like that. Programs seek their level- Coach Toledo just isn’t real relevant to the high schools and population base and money returning, etc.

On the Banks: Tulane only trailed Houston by five points into the fourth quarter last week, before the Cougars pulled ahead with two late touchdowns. What lessons should be taken from that loss?

That is the sprinkling of talent returning. Tulane has spent the last few years getting drilled badly by Top 40 teams. Now, the Green Wave can play a decent game for more than a half. The week before the Houston game, Tulane played Ole Miss to a one score game late too. Tulane is not good- but they are improved from the reeling teams from a couple of years back.

On the Banks: Tell me about this year's team. Who are the players to look out for on both sides of the ball?

Well, this is Tulane’s third straight game up in class, and back out on the road. It could go bad; we are a rent-a-win for a reason. We lack the depth to survive this sort of schedule week after week and experience playing in front of big road crowds. Rice and Army are more our speed.

But if they keep their head together, start with sophomore QB Ryan Griffin (should he play). The football fan will like him. He has no discernible NFL skills. Our offensive line can’t block BCS school fronts consistently, so he will be under constant physical duress. But he "gets it": a high completion percentage passer (flirting with 70% this year) in a spread offense, possessing the ball via the air. On defense, linebacker Mackey (a highly recruited transfer from Duke) is the best player.

On the Banks: You mentioned that you and a few friends would be visiting Rutgers Stadium for this weekend's game.Do you have any thoughts about New Jersey, Rutgers, or the the Northeast in general? Are there any
other draws on your trip besides the football game?

Surprisingly, Tulane has a huge alumni diaspora up to the northeast. "I wanted to meet peoplefrom Long Island" was the winning answer to an on-campus poll of "why did you go to Tulane?"

Consequently, the Green Wave almost always has a game up here. They are finishing a long series with Army. This game with Rutgers (psst… Tulane would love a home and home series- come to New Orleans). Syracuse and Navy. Basketball has played Georgetown, Columbia, LaSalle, Fordham, St. Johns, Temple. A goodly amount of alumni dollars comes from a 200 mile radius around Rutgers. So Tulane will keep coming