Over the past three years UL has sold an average of 21,000 tickets to the New Orleans Bowl. Three days prior to the Ragin’ Cajuns facing Nevada this year’s total stands this side of 12,000. The 10 a.m. kickoff has received most of the blame for the lagging sales and that’s probably true. Few Ragin’ Cajuns who witnessed any or all of UL’s three consecutive wins in the Superdome ever saw 10 a.m. during their bowl weekends in the Big Easy.
UL officials in their final sales push extolled the virtues (an early bowl date allowing fans to spend Christmas at home) and vices (food, fun and the Saints) of a trip to New Orleans. One local sports talk show tried a different approach. The host dared listeners to call in with the reasons they were not going. He promised “not to be nice” if their excuses were inadequate. Over an hour only two previously scheduled surgeries passed muster. Whether either enticements or shaming works promoters should heed Yogi Berra’s advice, “If fans don’t come out to the ball park you can’t stop them.”
Actually there are two excellent reasons for you to make the two-hour drive to the New Orleans Bowl: the Ragin’ Cajun football teams deserves it and they need you. The game offers fans a second opportunity to honor the most successful class in UL football history (35-16 and three bowl wins). The first didn’t go so well. On Senior Day the Ragin’ Cajuns most puzzling performance of the year resulted in a 35-16 loss to Appalachian State. It cost them a share of the Sun Belt title. UL fans didn’t do so well either. The 20,638 who showed up to honor an illustrious senior class play for a share of the conference title was the smallest home crowd since Nov 24, 2012. The bowl game gives players and fans a chance for better efforts.
Both will be needed against Nevada who plays in the Mountain West, the toughest of the Group of Five conferences. The MW sent seven teams to bowl games led by Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Boise State is the only common opponent. The Broncos beat the Ragin’ Cajuns by 25 in Boise and Nevada by 7 in Reno. Nevada also played Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl opponent, Arizona, losing 35-28 on the road. While UL is playing in its fourth straight bowl game Nevada has gone to bowls nine of the past 10 years. The exception was last year when the Wolf Pack went 4-8 in Coach Brian Polian’s first year.
Terry Fox, the sports book director at Reno’s Peppermill Resort Spa Casino assesses a bet on Nevada giving UL 2.5 points or less as a “good value.” Of course you could probably find a Cajun fan Friday in the French Quarter who will give you Nevada and 10 points. Make that the third good reason to head to New Orleans this weekend.