NEW ORLEANS - Tulane football is going home.
University president Scott Cowen, along with athletic director Rick Dickson announced a fund-raising effort to build a privately-financed $60 million on-campus football stadium, $40 million of which has already been raised.
Tulane intends to open the facility by the start of its 2014 season, returning football to Uptown New Orleans for the first time since the Green Wave left Tulane Stadium for the Superdome in 1975.
“We believe it is the right thing to do for Tulane University, Tulane football and New Orleans,” Cowen said. “For Tulane, it makes economic sense, because it will enhance our football program, but we also see it as a great resource for our community.
“We also know it will nurture a level of ￔesprit de corps’ on campus that we have probably not seen for decades.”
The facility, currently termed Tulane Community Stadium, will be located just steps away from the site where the original Tulane Stadium was built in 1921. This one, however, will be bit cozier than the 81,000 seat structure which was demolished in 1980.
Cowen announced capacity for the new stadium is anticipated to be 30,000 and will fit snuggly between the home of the Green Wave baseball (Greer Field at Turchin Stadium, built in 2008) and basketball (Hertz Center practice facility, opened in 2011) programs.
Tulane Community Stadium is also expected to serve as a community resource hosting LHSAA and New Orleans Recreational Department events as well as convocations, commencements, seminars and lectures.
An emotional Dickson admitted to being overwhelmed when comprehending how far his department has come since it was nearly shuttered following a university board review in 2003 and again in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Every moment since those two events has only and always been about restoring athletics and positioning athletics in a way that now we can expect to succeed,” Dickson said. “We don’t want to do that just on occasion but on a consistent basis.”
On-field results catapulted this matter to Cowen’s attention as well. The Green Wave finished 2-11 in its most recent season and has not produced a winning record or reached a bowl game since 2002.
Coach Bob Toledo was forced to resign midway through the 2011 season, after compiling a 15-40 record during his nearly five-year stint.
Earlier this week, Tulane announced the hiring of New Orleans Saints wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson as Toledo’s full-time replacement, and Cowen said Thursday he expects a successful Johnson to lead the Wave into its new home.
“If we are going to be an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) program, and we are, I want to be able to compete in our conference and win conference championships every year,” Cowen said. “If we’re not winning them, we should be competing for them. Academically, we are one of the best institutions in America, and we ought to be the same way in athletics.
“So we are going to become more competitive in athletics and try to build it to the standard our academics have achieved.”
The plan also incorporates the potential for additional academic majors, focused in areas attractive to athletes. Cowen said there are at least three curriculums, including sports management, being discussed by the provost and faculty, termed “adjacency majors,” in an attempt help boost the opportunities for Green Wave students to attain a degree.
“We think we now have the entire vision in place, now we have to execute it,” Cowen said. “So we really need to implement the right plan, but all of the pieces are there now.
“To those people who had fond memories of Tulane football and Tulane Stadium, we are officially inviting you back to come in and make some new memories in a new Tulane Stadium. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved. Most of all, we want people to come back home and have a good reason to come out and support the Green Wave.”