Troy Dannen, athletic director of the Tulane Green Wave, must have an amazing stamp collection. Big, bold stamps. Blue stamps. Olive stamps. Unexpected stamps. Stamps with amazing upsides. You get the picture. Dannen’s personal stamp continues to impress the Green Wave faithful with his fourth hire – head baseball coach, Travis Jewitt.
Not that any of this is unexpected. The Green Wave contingent are thirsty for change. They were handed a decade’s worth of excuses, and after awhile that obviously grows thin. They needed a new direction, and got it when Troy Dannen stepped into New Orleans, with his eye on Willow Street.
We don’t need to go into why former coaches were let go, we’ll just say the seeds of change were firmly sown. And, moreover, it’s no secret that every AD likes to have “their” coach in place. Athletic directors are paid handsome salaries, because they need to continually field a successful product. Two, Tulane athletics needed a kick, as fan interest was seriously waning, and, for example, at the end of the previous football and men’s basketball seasons virtually non-existent. Three, this is a business, and a lot of money has been poured into building and renovating the stadiums on campus – the multiple phase projects on Devlin Fieldhouse completed in 2015, an upgraded Turchin Stadium, and the $73-million dollar Yulman Stadium, which was completed in 2014. That’s some coin.
Yulman Stadium is the perfect example of the current state of Tulane athletics. Yulman is a grade-A facility, with an amazing game day atmosphere. Yulman is still shiny and new. Yulman Stadium was just named a Top 25 venue for college football by “The Bleacher Report.”
On the other hand, the Olive and Blue have only won four games at Yulman. Tulane’s only win at Yulman against a winning team was a 35-20 victory over FCS-member Southeastern Louisiana University. The three other foes, which the Green Wave vanquished at home, had a combined record of 5-30. In that light, it’s not surprising that Yulman has only seen one sellout – it’s debut.
There’s work to be done, and Dannen kicked off his career at Tulane in a bang-bang fashion – with two hires in his first couple of weeks at the helm. Dannen brought in Willie Fritz to lead the football team, in a move applauded far and wide by the faithful and critics alike – unless, of course, you were a Georgia Southern fan. Immediately afterwards, Dannen brought in Jim Barnes to lead the volleyball team after former head coach Sinisa Momic stepped down after a two year stretch that saw the team go 15-49.
As splashes go, Dannen’s hire of Mike Dunleavy, Sr. as head coach of Tulane men’s basketball ranks way up there. And it’s a good move, because the program needed to make some noise. Sure, some argue that hiring an “up-and-coming” coaching prospect would’ve been a better move, but Dunleavy obviously has the credentials, and could have an immediate impact, whereas a younger coach, who still has a lot to prove, may have floundered, and been unable to overcome the mediocrity of the men’s basketball program’s last 20 years.
Now, do I think Dunleavy is going to be head coaching the Green Wave 10 years from now? Considering the guy’s 62, I’m going to have to say no. But, do I think Dunleavy can stabilize this program and create a successful atmosphere that, down the line, would tempt another head coach, one who wouldn’t consider the job opening today, into coming to New Orleans? Absolutely.
Baseball is a different animal. I get it. Everyone wants to be a football school. Believe me, Tulane wants to be the football school, because NCAA football has all of the money. But, success-wise, Tulane is a baseball school. Since 1998, that glorious year when Shaun King led the Green Wave to an undefeated season, the football program has only had three winning seasons, and has never returned to the Top 25. In that same timespan, Tulane baseball posted 17 winning seasons, appeared in 12 regionals (winning three of them), and represented the Green Wave faithful in the College World Series twice. See? Different animal.
So, now we welcome Travis Jewett – a coach stepping onto the Uptown campus not with a mission to resurrect a program, but to continue to be successful, and take the program to higher heights.
Jewett lands in New Orleans off of a successful tenure, in Nashville, Tennessee, at Vanderbilt University. Jewett had the title of associate head coach, hitting coach, and recruiting coordinator. As hitting coach, Vanderbilt blossomed into a potent offensive attack that led the Commodores to two World Series appearances, winning it all in 2014. Jewett’s career has been met with many accolades – D1baseball.com placed him among their “Most Head Coach-Ready Assistants” List after the 2015 campaign. Jewett, as an assistant coach, also helped get the Arizona State Sun Devils to Omaha in 2010.
But, that was then, and this is Tulane. High expectations are the norm at Turchin Stadium. The fan base will be hungry for another American Athletic conference title, and will expect wins over the boys in Baton Rouge and a weekend of Super Regional baseball, with a trip to Omaha on the line for the biggest prize of them all.
Jewett knows big-time baseball. So, he should feel right at home.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Yazoo Brewing’s “HOPRY Double IPA”
Playlist Recommendation: Esme Patterson – “Feel Right”
Around the Way
The New Orleans Saints report to camp July 27, in Greenbrier, West Virginia. Their first day will consist of physicals – cough, cough – and conditioning. The team hits the field the following day. So, yeah, the football season starts in eight days. Unbelievable. Set your brain to, “hot take.”
The New Orleans Zephyrs have this hot young prospect playing for them – well, that “prospect” is actually the reigning National League batting champion, Dee Gordon, who joined the Zephyrs Monday night for a rehab assignment. Gordon’s “rehab” is of the, “just served an 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance enhancers,” variety. Oops. Anyway, the Zephyrs are at home the next three nights against the Sacramento River Cats. So get out to the, “Shrine on Airline!” Where else you going to watch a major league batting champ, while knocking back dollar beers?