Lewis: Green Wave enjoys bright spot on way to Big East

BY TED LEWIS

Advocate sportswriter

Finally, Tulane is seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.

Of course, exactly what that light leads to remains to be seen.

We do know it’s called the Big East.

But since the day in November when the Green Wave was accepted into the league effective 2014, 10 others have left, with at least three more unashamedly hoping for the siren’s call of what we now call a BCS automatic qualifier league — which the Big East, no matter its makeup, won’t have any more after the 2013 football season.

Tulane will still be in Conference USA this fall. And the Wave will have two new colleagues in the league. Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic’s transfer from the Sun Belt to C-USA reportedly is being moved up a year.

That means Tulane doesn’t know its upcoming conference football schedule, a sign of how confusing things can be in the ever-changing world of conference realignment. There had been speculation that Tulane’s move to the Big East might be fast-tracked, but that’s not happening.

“Once our invitation became final, we sort of anticipated the next movements,” Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson said Saturday as he watched the Wave tough out a 75-72 victory against Tulsa in refurbished and renamed Devlin Fieldhouse. “We don’t know how it’s going to play out from here,

“But we came out of our meeting in Dallas (held Jan. 11) solidly committed to each other. I think we all recognize and acknowledge that no matter what happens, we need each other for now.”

That even includes Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida, which got left behind while the rest of the Big East either moved out, reneged on joining, or, in the case of the seven non-football schools, broke away to form their own new league.

The new Big East is going to look a lot like the old Conference USA, especially if Tulsa gets an invitation, which could come as early as this week.

“We really can’t worry about what other schools might do,” Dickson said. “We’re concentrating on continuing to invest in our programs across the board.”

That’s a good idea. As seemingly is always the case for Tulane, there’s a lot of room for improvement, especially in the major sports.

Since the golden perfect season of 1998, Tulane football is 53-112 overall and 28-80 in C-USA with two winning records and one bowl appearance, that coming a decade ago.

In men’s basketball, since its last postseason appearance in 2000, Tulane is 169-208, 61-132 in C-USA with three winning records, but none in league play.

For a myriad of reasons, the school never capitalized on the success the success of Tommy Bowden and Perry Clark eras.

The result has been a fan base that’s shrunk of embarrassing levels.

Katrina was a near-death blow to the entire department.

While going on eight years, the storm shouldn’t still be a crutch, it’s worth noting that the school had to do all of its athletic rebuilding on its own. That’s why the commitment to $114 million in facilities has been so torturous.

That’s why Saturday was a happy day at Tulane. The basketball team had lost its first two conference games a home loss could have triggered yet another downward spiral for a program that’s gone 6-26 in league play for the past two seasons.

Instead, the Wave is 13-5 going into Tuesday’s game at league-leading Memphis.

Across campus on Saturday, football was having its biggest recruiting weekend. Those recruits will be the foundation of the team going into the Big East.

“We’re not complete in any way,” Dickson said. “But we’re getting there.”