Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tulane's New Football Stadium

The end of the fall semester and the crush of grading always means a little bit of a drop in the regularity of blog postings, but I do need to catch up to keep up with my blogging "self-nudge".  The good thing is that there are some really interesting things happening.  One of these was the recent announcement by the higher-ups at Tulane of plans to rebuild an on-campus football stadium.  What do I think of this?

I have mixed feelings, but on balance I think I support the effort.  The pros outweigh the cons as I see it.  Let me review my thinking here.

1. PRO: Having a football stadium on campus will undoubtedly go a long, long way to reviving school spirit and a festive campus culture.  That it takes a varsity football program with an on-campus stadium to do this is just the way it is.  But it will do the campus community some good to have a re-invigorated school spirit.

2. CON: There will be a much greater emphasis on football and the athletic program in general which will cut into the attention that much of our academic programming needs.  On the one hand, we keep admitting more and more students, while we also keep thinning the academic resources needed to support the students in both their education and their campus social/living environment.  It is a shame, at least to me, that we can easily raise $40 million for a stadium, but raising a fraction of that for academic programming is like pulling teeth.  This is especially troublesome because Tulane is not a school that turns a blind eye to higher academic standards in order to accommodate a vibrant and competitive Division I athletic program.  And with the hopes that this new stadium will bring for success on the football field, I do believe that there will be significant downward pressure on maintaining high academic standards for the top athletes that having a football team worthy of the stadium will require.

3. PRO:  Again, the unfortunate fact is that the $40 million raised for the stadium is not $40 million that could have been raised for any other purpose.  Some donors and alumni are willing to open their pocketbooks for a stadium and won't do so for other things.  I find this a sad commentary, but it is what it is.  However, where this is likely to make a difference is in the residual fundraising effects.  That $40 million may help to generate more interest in the university as a whole, which might improve fundraising and development prospects in other non-athletic environments down the road that wouldn't have materialized otherwise.

4. CON: No question that the stadium will only be a net plus if it draws people to campus for gameday and other events held there.  This inevitably means a great big headache for the campus and the neighborhood that is already starved for adequate parking space and is already subject to heavy traffic congestion.  The area of New Orleans around Tulane will just not be an easy place for motorists to navigate on game days.

5. PRO: The stadium is also being made available to support high school football and other community events.  Uptown New Orleans and its public schools, not to mention the City's Recreation Department, will really benefit from the use of the new Tulane stadium if access to the stadium will really be as available to them as the university administration has promised.

These are just some of my thoughts.  But I guess it boils down to the fact that I am a football aficionado, and so I can't help but have a soft spot for anything that will make Tulane football more appealing and enjoyable.  The next question is whether or not I'll take the plunge and get season tickets.  I'm thinking yes.