Remember Shaun King, the Tulane Green Wave quarterback that led them to a 12-0 record and top ten national ranking? That was 18 years ago. It seems so much more recent than 1998. Wow, time has gotten away since things were going so well for the Green Wave.
Since then it has been rough; from Hurricane Katrina and a season full of road games to a series of coaching staffs that could never find consecutive successful seasons, Tulane has been unable to build upon the potential of that magical season.
For the first time in ages, there is an aura of excitement in New Orleans as former Georgia Southern head coach Willie Fritz left the Sun Belt program for Tulane and the AAC. Even with Fritz taking the job, this job was still ranked as the worst of the 12 head coaching jobs in the AAC.
How does the Tulane head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?
- A recruiting hotbed. Louisiana is one of the best states at producing FBS talent despite a population under five million. They have over 60 Louisiana natives on the current roster.
- The opening of Yulman Stadium. Getting a beautiful new on-campus stadium to replace playing at the Superdome is a big deal.
- No short leashes. Between Curtis Johnson (4 years), Bob Toledo (5 years), and Chris Scelfo (9 years), coaches are given a chance to bring in their recruits and succeed.
- The right coach can make it work. Tommy Bowden took over a program that was 2-9 in 1996 and proceeded to go 7-4 and 12-0 before leaving for Clemson.
- The budget at Tulane will never compare to most of the AAC. There is a game plan that shows an initiative to increase the athletic budget, but an overall budget of $25,000,000 is nowhere near the level of other programs.
- Lack of success. Since 1980, Tulane has ended the season with a winning record seven times and five bowl games.
- Not a destination job. Only one coach, Clark Shaughnessy from 1915-1926, has stayed longer than 10 years as head coach. Chris Scelfo, nine seasons, is the only head coach since the 1950s to stay longer than five seasons.
Making the case for why it should be ranked higher than 12th: Nic Lewis, Managing Editor
I was tempted to simply type "they aren't Tulsa" and be done with it. It is most certainly true that Tulane is a ways behind most other AAC programs in terms of financial investment in the program. It's also at least somewhat true that one of the biggest reasons they're in the AAC is because they're in New Orleans and the AAC wanted to accumulate media markets, not just sports programs.
But look at the positives. This is a great job for someone looking to make a name for themselves; there are no expectations to live up to, so you can grow along with the program and not get Solich-ed out of a job when you don't win 10 games. If you're looking for a program that needs some rebuilding, your best bet is one that has low to no expectations about how you do it or where it ends up.
You're also in a city that has a lot going on culturally that you can build into your gameday experiences, and in terms of sports two-thirds of your competition is "a very mediocre minor league baseball team in a mediocre venue" and "a very mediocre basketball team whose venue is tucked up the ass crack of the Superdome". There are numerous demographics ripe for the pickings, especially now that they aren't having to drag their asses downtown to sit in a 80% empty dome.
Also, did I mention that they have craft beer on tap? Yes, not only is Yulman on the short list of on-campus stadiums that sell beer, it's legitimately good craft beer. I personally am going to attend one Tulane and one LSU game next season, but if I had to choose I would take cozy Yulman and its craft beer over LSU's concrete-and-no-beer combination every time.
If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...
You want to see the team decked out in those sweet blue uniforms. You are the type that likes to rebuild from the bottom up and prove that any job can be successful with the right person in charge.
Tulane will not have many players with high rankings in any category, but fighting through a tough season or two and adding recruits, they can be virtually any type of offense or defense. The Green Wave is the ultimate blank slate of a program to build just as you prefer from the very beginning.
If you choose this job in real life...
You enjoy job security while getting a chance to build a program just like you want it. A coach that takes the job at Tulane is given a very long leash and has an administration that is actively trying to figure out how to bring more money into the budget.
It also helps if you love New Orleans. You are the only FBS program in New Orleans and can build a very nice fan base if you start winning.
It is hard to compare Tulane with other AAC members that have much higher budgets, enrollments, and regular success over time. The job, at its best, could barely break the top six in conference jobs, but that is not a bad thing.
Much of the negative talk about this job is in comparison to other AAC jobs. When comparing this job to the Sun Belt, Conference USA, MAC, and MWC jobs, coaching the Green Wave moves up the list rather quickly.
Tulane will always have a hard time erasing the reputation of being a stepping stone job to something better. Whether it is Tommy Bowden and Clemson or Mack Brown and North Carolina, it will be hard to keep a star coach with the program.