Everyone has their opinion as to what strategy LSU should take regarding scheduling non conference opponents for football. But I find that most people fall into one of two categories:
1) Don’t Schedule Any Difficult Opponents – People who fall into this category think that the SEC is tough enough without having another potential loss on the schedule. Use the non-conference games as tune-ups and glorified scrimmages rather than get the team beat up in a difficult game.
2) Schedule Some Difficult Opponents – These fans claim that season tickets aren’t cheap, and they’d rather not have 4 “scrimmages” every year on the home schedule. These game are over by halftime. Bring in some teams that are different, exciting, and challenging. Scheduling opponents from BCS conferences usually involves a home and home series, which provides a new venue for fans to visit as well. Even if LSU loses occasionally, it’s worth it.
I personally fall right in between the two, but lean more towards being in that second group. My perfect schedule would involve 1 or 2 challenging opponents, preferably from a BCS conference, and then 2 or 3 “rent a wins.”
As always, money is a big factor. Financially, it’s necessary that LSU have at least 7 home games each year. They simply need the income from ticket sales and concessions to keep the athletic department in the black. Lately, LSU has been alternating 8 home games one year with 7 the next year. LSU had 8 home games in 2008 and 7 home games in 2007 due to a road game to Tulane.
How does the Tulane series affect LSU’s efforts to schedule home and home series with other teams? 2006 was the first game in a 10-year home and home deal with Tulane where the two schools would alternate hosting. LSU gets a large chunk of the gate money in years when Tulane hosts, but it’s still not enough to make up for not having a home game at Tiger Stadium. So if LSU is trying to schedule another quality opponent, the Tulane series proves to be a huge obstacle. It means that LSU can only schedule teams willing to travel on years that LSU is playing at Tulane. Consequently, it also means that LSU can only travel to other schools in years they are hosting Tulane. It essentially cuts your possibilities in half.
Though LSU hosted Tulane in 2008, they are hosting them again in 2009. The two schools agreed to switch the host site for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. This took place because LSU is traveling to Washington in 2009 and couldn’t afford two non-conference away games. This would mean that LSU is set to play in the Superdome in both 2010 and 2011. But LSU is actively pursuing scheduling other big name opponents, and the writing is on the wall that the LSU / Tulane series is on life support. LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva recently hinted that LSU would likely ditch the series.
The LSU / Tulane rivalry is full of tradition, but the reality is that this series has been lopsided for quite some time. LSU last lost in 1982 and has won 16 in a row. In short, the two programs are simply on different levels and the game is no more intriguing than if LSU were playing Middle Tennessee State or The Citadel. For the time being, Tulane has been surpassed by Louisiana Tech as the state’s second best program. I’ve got no problem with LSU playing Tulane in Tiger Stadium, but there’s no reason for LSU to ever travel to New Orleans to play them. It doesn’t make sense financially. It hinders LSU’s efforts to schedule other competitive opponents. And it’s not like LSU needs the exposure in the city of New Orleans. After all, they have played there 4 times this decade in BCS bowl games. It’s a good thing for the city to fill up hotels, restaurants, and Bourbon Street for a weekend but LSU should feel no obligation to consider that when managing their athletic department.
Taking a look at the future schedules, we know that LSU is playing Washington in 2009 along with ULL, Tulane, and Louisiana Tech.
In 2010, LSU is scheduled to travel to Tulane while hosting West Virginia and Southern Mississippi. They are still searching for a 4th opponent, and the rumors are that LSU is looking for a BCS conference opponent to fill the void. The rumor that seems to have the most legs is that LSU will play North Carolina in Atlanta to open the season. If that happens, then expect the Tulane game to be moved to Baton Rouge or cancelled.
In 2011, LSU is scheduled to travel to West Virginia and Tulane while hosting Houston. They still have one spot left to fill.
For 2012, hosts North Texas, Washington, and Tulane with one spot left to fill.
Arizona State is scheduled to visit LSU in 2015 with LSU making the return trip to Tempe in 2016.