Ryan Moats, remember him? Jerry Babb, remember him? Those were the stars playing for Louisiana Tech and Louisiana in 2004. That's how long it has been since the Cajuns and Bulldogs have met on the gridiron. Saturday will end a ten-year drought between these two in-state rivals. That's ten long years with two of the state's biggest rivals not playing each other, why did it have to be this way?
Louisiana Tech and Louisiana will have played each other 85 times before Saturday evening's 6 PM kickoff. The Bulldogs hold the all-time series lead 46-33-6, but the Cajuns have a 21-17-2 advantage in Lafayette. Why isn't this going to be 96th meeting instead of the 86th?
Both universities were members of the Southland Conference, and both moved to the Sun Belt Conference. In 2001 Louisiana Tech decided to depart from the Sun Belt. The Bulldogs were on their way to the WAC, leaving the Cajuns behind. The Cajuns and Bulldogs would continue to play until Louisiana Tech refused to schedule the Cajuns in football. While no exact reasons were given, it is believed the Bulldogs felt nothing good could come out of playing the Cajuns.
After all, the Bulldogs were pulling away from all of their in-state brethren with the exception of LSU. The refusal to schedule the Cajuns in football caused Louisiana to put in place a ban on scheduling Louisiana Tech in all other sports. The Cajuns would honor all existing contracts but, after they were complete the two universities would not meet in any sport.
At last, former Louisiana Tech Athletic Director Bruce Van de Velde and Louisiana AD Scott Farmer were able to reach an agreement allowing the rivalry to be renewed. The series was back on, just like it always should have been. It makes too much sense for the two not to play. I personally believe that the Bulldogs, Cajuns and Green Wave should play one another each year or on a rotating schedule. It would be great for the state of Louisiana and even better for each team's fan base.
There is plenty of bitterness on both sides, with sections of each fan base feeling they are too good for the other. That is the wrong way to look at it. Those feelings make for a renewed rivalry between new generations of fans who have never experienced the Cajun/Bulldog battles of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Its' rivalries like this that makes college football great.
The atmosphere Saturday will be one of the most amped up and electric settings either team will play in. Fans from both sides will let each other have it, just as they should. But ultimately, the players will decide who walks away with bragging rights...and then next year we can do it again. It's just about time they get the opportunity.