Growing up in the River Parishes, Curtis Johnson was a Green Wave fan.
"I was an underdog," he told the Times-Picaynue last week in a story to commemorate the Green Wave's historic 1973 victory over the LSU Tigers at old Tulane Stadium, "Tulane was always the underdog, so I went for them."
As opposed to now, where most New Orleanians root for LSU and Tulane, which is similar to rooting for Tennessee/Ole Miss/Mississippi State football and Memphis basketball in my hometown, four decades ago the city was split into two camps, one being for the state school in Baton Rouge and the other camp being for the "snooty, suit and tie school" in Uptown.
And as pro sports entered the New Orleans sports scene, Tulane, which began cutting back its emphasis on athletics in the 1950's, a decision that ultimately forced the university to leave the Southeastern Conference in 1966, the football program's exposure in the Big Easy was no more than a blip on the radar.
Aside from an undefeated season in 1998 with Tommy Bowden at the helm (who, by the way left Tulane for Clemson prior to the bowl game) and a few more bowl trips with Chris Scelfo, Green Wave football for the most part was an also-ran program with an indifferent fan base.
That is, until now.
40 years after that November night in Tulane Stadium, Johnson, who served for six seasons on Sean Payton's staff as wide receivers coach, is taking the underdog Green Wave bowling as the school accepted a bid in the New Orleans Bowl on Tuesday where they will face the University of Louisiana-Lafayette on December 21st in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
While it's a long way from the bells and whistles of the more famous Sugar Bowl, Johnson's turnaround at Tulane, should give Who Dats, especially the ones who reside in the New Orleans area, something to cheer about.
It's not everyday a native son takes the local university to a bowl game.