Will baseball's success translate into programwide momentum?

August 3, 2001

Nick Marinello

The Green Wave's baseball season may have ended a few games too soon in Omaha, but the team's foray into the national championship and earlier victory over Louisiana State University in the Super Regional may help load the bases for future athletics department success.

"This takes us from being a very, very good program to putting us into that very small group of elite programs," says Rick Dickson, athletics director.

While Tulane has enjoyed success at the conference level--this year alone university teams won Conference USA championships in women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, women's track and baseball--it had not received the kind of national attention that is attracted by NCAA finals.

"We had not competed for a national championship," says Gary Roberts, Tulane law professor and NCAA representative. "We have done well at the intermediate level, which befits Conference USA, but we haven't played with the big boys."

Now that we have, Roberts says it could mean big things for the athletics program. "Playing in Omaha is not significant in itself," he says. "The question is whether this signals the beginning of baseball and other programs regularly getting to that level. If that is what it is--a beginning of a new era--then it is a very, very significant event."

While baseball does not generate the kind of revenue that football or men's or women's basketball do, both Roberts and Dickson agree that momentum from one sport can help jump-start others.

"The success of one program creates an image that allows other programs to recruit better players," says Roberts. "It adds to the cachet. It makes us look big-time. It helps in the all of the ways that image and enthusiasm can help."

"I think we will see an impact on fund raising as an after-effect of the College World Series," says Dickson. "We are already on target to have the best fund-raising year in our history and the results at the end of the season will only enhance that."

Dickson says that national visibility has other benefits. "We have always had a good package in any of our programs. You start with a Tulane education on the table and package it with the fact that you are going to compete at a very high level."

For baseball coach Rick Jones, that kind of high-level play is a tangible sales tool. "Going to the regionals as we have has helped in our recruiting," he says. "Now we've had a breakthrough because we don't have to tell someone we've never been to Omaha."

According to Jones, the Green Wave does not recruit so much against arch-rival LSU as it does against Stanford. "That's the kind of student we are after," he says. "We are a national school and so we recruit against the Stanfords, the Rices and the Notre Dames."

Dickson expects Jones to be able to build on the teams momentum. "A lot of credit goes to Rick Jones because he inherited a program that was pretty comfortable locally and regionally but not nationally successful. He has really elevated it to the next level."

Also, Dickson points out that the 2,200 average attendance at Turchin Stadium last year set a school record, and he anticipates both season and single-game attendance figures to go up next year. The athletics director, however, prefers not to place too much emphasis on one sport. He particularly would like the Tulane community to embrace the entire athletics program, not just its rising stars.

"I strongly believe that our student athletes well represent Tulane, whether they are winning national championships or just competing in the classrooms or on the fields and courts or arenas at all. I think the whole exercise is noteworthy.

"That group of 35 young men [on the baseball team] is special," he says. "But you know what? I've got 275 other athletes who are equally special. They do an amazing job for all of us--alums, faculty, staff and themselves."

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000