In Athletics, Cajuns Have the Right to Say “We ARE Louisiana” – From the Bird’s Nest
Every so often, the debate on what Louisiana's athletic teams call themselves and what they SHOULD be calling themselves comes to the surface.
Kind of like gout. Or shingles.
But this time, it's gotten blown WAY out of proportion.
There are plenty of rumors going around about the latest tete-a-tete. Some of the stories you see have facts in them. Some do not.
Now, before anyone writes another editorial on what the university should be called, let me educate you on one thing. What the university calls itself from an athletic standpoint is separate from what they call themselves in all other phases of the university. There is a statement in the law regarding athletics, but, according to most people who have a clue, it once again refers to "University of" and not simply "Louisiana."
That's the first and most important thing you need to know. If you write an editorial regardless of where you're located and don't understand this fact, then you have little credibility.
And, before we go any further, let me give you full disclosure. This is an opinion piece based on the facts. And, the first person to publicly refer to the Ragin' Cajuns athletic teams as Louisiana was me... The day the name change went into effect. On that date, I asked the administration how they wanted to be referred. The response was how they DIDN'T want to be referred: Don't ever call us ULL (UL Lafayette was presumably okay) and don't ever call us just 'Lafayette', as that is another institution entirely. (Easton, PA, where they make baseball bats).
There were two stories in the last few days concerning what UL (yep, I called them UL...because I can) is doing to try to brand themselves athletically as 'Louisiana.' The Advertiser's Tim Buckley wrote an article referencing a statement saying the Sun Belt takes no position on the issue.
THAT statement was in response, we assume, to a tweet by ESPN play-by-play man Joe Davis, saying the conference office along with the worldwide leader had given the edict that Louisiana-Lafayette be used.
Joe was half right. Davis formerly worked as the voice of the Sun Belt Network. At the time, former Commissioner Wright Waters was adamant that Louisiana-Lafayette and the dreaded ULL be used. Davis, I assume, assumed the policy was still in place.
The Monroe News-Star, like the Advertiser, is owned by Gannett. The beat writer who covers the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Tabby Soignier, wrote an article as well, and had many quotes from North Louisiana legislators who suddenly, after fourteen years, are speaking on the issue. Naturally, the article was not favorable to UL (I can legally say that) or its efforts and was approached by the legislators as a "letter of the law" issue.
Which, when it comes to athletics, has nothing to do with any of that.
(It should be noted that both Buckley and Soignier, in addition to being professional colleagues, are also personal friends of mine. I, neither professionally or personally, have any issue with the articles that were written.)
Naturally, folks in Monroe are incensed by the "controversy." And, folks in Acadiana have taken Soignier off their Christmas card list.
UL's (man, there I go again) aggressiveness in using the brand "Louisiana" for athletics has become more pointed in the last four or five years. After understanding they were breaking no laws, the sports information department began requesting "Louisiana" be used.
And, with exception of long-time Sun Belt foes and schools in Louisiana, the request has been honored. Arkansas, Kansas State, Akron, Texas State and Western Kentucky have all referred to the Ragin' Cajuns as Louisiana on their websites and fact sheets. They also got that respect by public address announcers. Note: At no time did anyone ask that the school be referred to as "The University of Louisiana."
It's a very slow educational process. but it's taking root.
While other schools around the state have their issue with "Louisiana," ULM seems to have the biggest problem with it... And as a member of the same conference, that's understandable. But while the squawking continues from Ouachita Parish, here's what many have forgotten, or perhaps didn't even know.
ULM tried like hell to be known as Louisiana themselves.
Don't believe it? Check out the history of the helmets used. After the name change, the football helmets simply said "Louisiana" with an arrow running through it. The baseball caps were an L with a feather coming out. A couple of other uniforms said Louisiana as well.
But, when the school formerly known as Indians were told by NCAA mandate to change its mascot, ULM made what I thought was an excellent marketing decision. Their thought was, there's more than one Louisiana, but there's only one ULM. They changed the mascot to Warharks, designed a new logo and created a new brand.for themselves.
And frankly, I thought it was very, very well done. The logo was sharp and unique. The nickname was unique as well. They asked to be known as ULM. Not "Monroe" not "Louisiana-Monroe." And, people complied with the request, including the fans in Acadiana.
But that decision left "Louisiana" to the Ragin' Cajuns. And, they got more aggressive in creating their brand. In logos. In facilities. In apparel. In uniforms.
And, they complied with the law. If you look at apparel that is sold, Louisiana, Ragin' Cajuns and combinations of the above are all used, legally. But if apparel has the UL insignia, you'll find "Lafayette" underneath. Legal as well.
Notice, I've talked about nothing but athletics here, right? Good. Just checking.
And so it continues. Or, in this case, reappears. Like psoriasis. And, still, folks outside of Acadiana still don't understand "Louisiana" is NOT the same as "The University of". And, while one may imply the other, that isn't illegal, either.
This blog will not make folks in Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Hammond, Thibodaux, Natchitoches, Ruston and Monroe suddenly comply with UL's (oh, gosh, there I go again) request to be known as "Louisiana."
But now, they just might know what they're talking about when they bring the issue up.