Few schools face a greater challenge in playing major college football than Tulane University. A winning season, along with an occasional bowl appearance, is sprinkled here and there, but the Green Wave generally swims against the tide. That clearly was the case in the season opener, when Florida State swamped Tulane 38-12.
What makes life so difficult? Size for one.
Tulane is a small, private institution of approximately 6,400 undergraduates going against schools three, four, even five times its size.
Then too the strong academic orientation keeps many hot playing prospects away.
Furthermore, interest in the program is hard to sustain because Tulane doesn't belong to a conference, plays off campus (in the Superdome), and generally finds itself in the shadow of the city's pro franchise, the Saints, and to some degree Louisiana State University, which is up the road a piece in Baton Rouge.
The picture can be pretty discouraging, but Tulane isn't about to throw in the towel, especially not now that the school has dropped men's basketball. The university disbanded the basketball team last spring after point-shaving and illegal recruiting activities came to light.
Football and basketball are generally the most visible, well-entrenched sports on any campus, as well as the major bread winners for the overall athletic program.
Without one, the other naturally assumes heightened importance in the eyes of the college community. Thus, instead of scaling down it commitment to football, the administration remains supportive of playing at the big-time, or Division IA, level.
``I don't think it's a question of keeping up with the Joneses,'' says Dr. Eamon Kelly, Tulane's president. ``To me it's more a question of a hundred years of tradition in a collegiate decision making environment.''