In what appears to be a cost-cutting measure, House Bill 971 by Baton Rouge Republican state Rep. Steve Carter would restrict UL Lafayette and most other public universities in Louisiana from traveling beyond 375 miles for non-football and -basketball games. Not surprisingly, the bill exempts all LSU sports. Carter, it should be noted, is a former LSU assistant athletic director and tennis coach.
The bill would effectively kill full conference play by most public universities in the state — UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, Louisiana Tech, , UNO, Northwestern State, McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Grambling State and Southern — all of which belong to athletic conferences that, like virtually all athletic conferences within the NCAA, have far-flung membership.
In the case of UL, baseball, track, golf and every other sport that isn’t football or basketball including our beloved and perennially nationally ranked Lady Cajuns softball program would be prevented, by law(!), from playing games or in tournaments hosted by (see map below) Appalachian State in Boone, NC (727 miles away), Arkansas State in Jonesboro (396), Georgia Southern in Statesboro (624) and Georgia State in Atlanta (510). Lady Cajuns softball, which has earned its place among the nation’s top programs, routinely plays tournaments as far away as California. No more of that if HB 971 passes.
Depending on how distance is calculated — as the crow flies versus highway miles — the law could also block UL from playing games against or participating in tournaments hosted by Texas State in San Marcos (335 miles by air, 380 by bus) and Troy University in Troy, Ala. (375 by air, 419 by bus).
If distance is calculated by highway miles, UL would be prohibited from competing against six of the 10 universities that comprise the Sun Belt Conference in all sports except football and basketball. Obviously there’s no way the Ragin’ Cajuns could remain in the Sun Belt Conference if House Bill 971 were to pass, which it can’t possibly. We think.