Dec 14, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Save UNO Sports
When the LSU Board of Supervisors voted to allow UNO to pursue dropping from Division 1 to Division 3 sports, the vote, with only one dissent, must have been one of the easiest the board has ever made. The LSU Board long ago established its willingness to diminish UNO whenever it can.
As a Division 1 university, UNO plays in the lower ranks of the highest level of college sports. In Division 3, where there are no scholarships and little funding, the level doesn’t get any lower. As Joe Pasternak, UNO’s basketball head coach, says, “Division 3 is a glorified intramural team.”
There are some genuine cost concerns behind the move. The university, already bleeding financially, would save an estimated $2.5 million per year. Also, attendance at UNO games, through good times and bad, has usually been poor.
So if I were sitting in my junior year logic class the reasoning for the downsizing would be overwhelming. But if logic ruled the world, New Orleans would have never been built where it is. The Superdome was constructed in defiance of logic, and without it there would be no Saints. And what can be more illogical than Mardi Gras?
In modern America a sports identity is part of a university’s signature. It is why Harvard plays Yale or Army plays Navy. That identity has schools being shown on ESPN highlights and their names on crawls at the bottom of the screen.
I agree that if a funding package cannot be found to save UNO athletics, then the sports program should be allowed to decline. (With that, UNO will be playing at the lowest level of all the state’s four-year public universities.) But folks, where’s the old Privateer spirit?! Where’s the fight?!
In February the UNO administration, which is behind the downsizing plan, is supposed to present a transition plan to the LSU Board. Time is wasting. We need a special committee to come up with a plan. Make former UNO Athletic Director Ron Maestri the nominal head, but get some big names with access to money. Present a plan to rescue the university.
The importance of UNO to this community is beyond comprehension. It is just not enough to say that the university gave New Orleans a middle glass (which it did) –– it did so by being a damn good school despite the indifference of its parent governing board.
UNO is about New Orleans. It is about us. We won’t get leadership from City Hall, so it is going to have come from the private sector.
Please someone take the lead. Do it for the city, for the university and for pride –– and, by the way, do it to ruin the Board of Supervisors’ days.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 895-2266.
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