Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tilting at the LSU windmill

Jason Dore is an opinion columnist for the LSU Reveille. His Aug. 30 column, "UL(L), there's no reason to hate," is the latest word from Red Stick on the UL-LSU rivalry. An excerpt:

ULL's hate of LSU is deep seated and long-heeded. Since its inception, ULL has played second fiddle to LSU, the state's flagship university. ULL supporters have long complained of the Louisiana Legislature's regular practice of doling out much more funding to LSU than other state universities. This funding, combined with LSU's flagship status and prowess in athletics, turned LSU into a world famous institution while ULL struggled to be put on the academic and athletic maps.

I do hold some sympathy for ULL. I grew up attending ULL athletic events as I am a native of Lafayette. I even once sported the stereotypical Lafayette hairdo, spiked hair and frosted tips. But the fact of the matter is LSU is not at fault for any of ULL's perceived shortcomings in funding. There simply isn't enough money to go around. We have far too many state institutions of higher education to fund anyone properly, even LSU. Louisiana would be much better off with fewer colleges.

Admittedly, there are some LSU fans who strongly dislike ULL. All LSU baseball fans remember the heated LSU-ULL baseball games of a few years ago. Many LSU fans have also been openly suspicious of ULL alumna Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Sufficiently spurred, I e-mailed Jason the following response:


I just wanted to drop you a line regarding your Aug. 30 Reveille column on the UL-LSU rivalry. Like you, I've been following the give-and-take over the recent LSU-bashing in the Times of Acadiana. To me, the exchanges represent everything good and bad about UL-LSU relations. I attended UL Lafayette from 1998 to 2005, earning two degrees. While there, I wrote a political column for the Vermilion, in which the topic of Louisiana higher education often arose. With that in mind, I offer you a few points of clarification:

1) We're UL or UL Lafayette, not ULL. That name is used almost exclusively by LSU fans, as a term of condescension. We wouldn't even have "Lafayette" in our name were it not for LSU politics, so it's an especially sore point.

2) The UL-LSU rivalry is more about politics than about football. Tiger fans harp endlessly about how this weekend's game is going to prove whose school is the best. But all it proves is whose football team is better (and better-funded). And, frankly, we all know the answer already. But a university is more than its football team, a fact that too many LSU fans have forgotten.

3) That said, however, UL's football team is the best it's been in a decade. While all that may mean to LSU is that it'll take more swings of the fly-swatter to stop us, we still take pride in our progress. We're not LSU, sure, but who in our situation could be? Suffice to say, your 2002 blowout was against a very different UL team. I still don't expect the game to be close, but Tiger complacency could make all the difference.

4) Governor Blanco has not been the boon to UL that you think. In fact, she strongly supports LSU's flagship status. I'll quote her directly: "[UL] should be encouraged to compete…but what we want to see is LSU being among the highest-ranking academic universities in the nation." As for UL, she said, "All the minor universities are able to compete nationally" (LSU Reveille, 2/5/04). She then had the nerve to speak at the UL Alumni Spring Gala and talk about how she was helping UL become a school on par with LSU! I fail to see how Blanco's governorship has helped her alma mater at all.

5) Your attempt to paint LSU as a victim of UL hatred is negated by the extreme hate by numerous LSU posters on LSU fans have taken this rivalry to an inappropriately personal level. I know Susan Gonzalez personally, and it's hurt to read letter after letter calling her stupid, an LSU reject, etc. It's clear that nobody slinging this mud has the slightest clue who she is. Calling for her head is ridiculous, and makes for a weak argument. You could jump on her for getting the Mike the Tiger issue wrong, but that doesn't change the point she was trying to make (that LSU has taken less of a budget hit than the other schools).

6) UL is not jealous of LSU. We do not want to be another LSU; what we do want is a somewhat level playing field for all schools. The deck has been stacked against every non-LSU state university since the days of Huey Long. To say that LSU is where it is today strictly on merit is to ignore decades of political corruption and economic inequity. While every state school has its own strengths (and, in their own way, top LSU), the state does not foster such growth.

7) While I'm admittedly not the biggest fan of Lafayette, it's a lot more diverse than you give it credit for. Even LSU fans at Tiger Droppings concede that Lafayette is a more vibrant community than Baton Rouge. I spent lots of time in both places as a kid, and I'd agree that Lafayette is better.

8) "Louisiana would be much better off with fewer colleges?" Just on principle, that's a reckless statement to make. But it also shows insecurity on LSU's part. As it is, Louisiana's flagship system is set up to ensure that only one university truly succeeds, while the rest fight for scraps. That doesn't work as a society and it doesn't work as a university system.

Hope this clears things up.



Cajun Tiger said...

Serious question. I really did think it was ULL. If it is just UL how would it not be confused with ULM?

Ian McGibboney said...

Because UL Lafayette and UL Monroe are two completely unrelated schools. Anyone familiar with both schools--as I am--cannot even begin to see them as satellite campuses, like LSUS, LSUA and LSUE. Even UL Monroe, from what I'm told, considers us to be the true UL. We use "Louisiana" as our handle in a variety of capacities, from athletics to facebook and everything in between.

UL Lafayette has fought for more than 21 years to become the University of Louisiana. But because of state (LSU) politics, two schools had to become UL at the same time. That's essentially why Northeastern Louisiana changed its name. Apparently, UL Lafayette is not the only school fed up with the flagship model.

Nick said...

The online paper allows for comments so I just left my two cents, maybe more.

Murph said...

This guy really failed at his research: everyone knows that the frosted tip hair came from Erath, not Lafayette.

Ian McGibboney said...

I don't even know what frosted-tip hair looks like, to be honest.

Nick, I just received a confirmation e-mail regarding my letter. They said they'll probably print it next week, though they're afraid to open another deluge. Not sure why; that's why I read a newspaper!

P Anderson said...

Trust me when I say ULM does not in any way (and for the record NO ONE outside of Lafayette does either) consider ULL to be the "true UL" and its a very simple reason - you aren't. I know ULL desperately wants to be; to the point of just being obsessed about it. It really makes ULL seem to have very unstable leadership at its core because it is so clear to everyone outside of their little bubble that their not in any way considered the University of Louisiana; no matter how hard you try - "We use "Louisiana" as our handle in a variety of capacities, from athletics to facebook and everything in between." Seriously dont you see how pathetic this sounds? If you answer NO then just think if you saw some on from ULM saying the same thing - you would be absolutely shocked right?

Ian McGibboney said...

Seems to me that UL Monroe surrendered that right when it officially went by ULM.

Not that I care what schools hostile to mine think.

P Anderson said...

So they surrendered the right to make up their schools name by using the actual name of the school? You do realize that the name of your school is the University of Louisiana AT LAFAYETTE right?

Ian McGibboney said...

ULM sanctions the use of ULM in correspondence, team logos, promotional materials, etc. ULL is not used in the same way.

The "at Lafayette" was mandated by political pressure from LSU and from ULM. UL never wanted that, and resents it. Though it's become something of a running joke there to call LSU, "LSU-BR A&M," because of their insistence that our school uses its full name at all times.