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Baseball At Price-Gouging World Series Tonight; SEC Getting A Lot Tougher; More Spring Camp Stuff

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If you’re in New Orleans and looking for something to do, you might head over to Turchin Stadium to watch LSU and Tulane tussle tonight – but if you do, bring your checkbook. Tulane is charging $30 for tickets to tonight’s game, which is one of the most asinine things I’ve ever heard.

The face value for a ticket in the Champions’ Club at Alex Box Stadium is $15. If you can get your hands on one of those you sit directly behind home plate and you can go in the clubhouse and eat great food and drink beer or wine. It’s a terrific experience that makes you pretty much OK with a rain delay.

Will this game be twice the experience as a ticket in the Champions’ Club?

No.

That Tulane seeks to maximize its revenues out of playing LSU isn’t new, nor is it a surprise. And I’ll confess – I don’t have this raging animus against Tulane that a lot of other LSU fans do. Tulane is the largest private employer in New Orleans, and right now that makes Tulane a precious resource. It’s also a pretty good school. Overpriced and overrated, certainly – but a good school nonetheless. And there’s no question that in post-Katrina New Orleans those people have to do absolutely everything they possibly can to stay afloat, even if some of the decisions they’re forced to make look grasping and petty.

Like $30 baseball tickets. Those are grasping and petty to the extreme.

If Tulane, who at 16-11 right now and 1-2 in Conference USA doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere this year, does manage to right the ship and finds a way to host a regional, do you think they’ll charge $30 per ticket? After all, those games are more important than a Tuesday game against LSU. I can answer that one – of course not.

They’re trying to gouge LSU’s fans out of the $30 as some sort of fundraiser, and in their own way they’re trying to avoid the phenomenon of playing a home game in front of a hostile crowd – thinking that LSU fans would be priced out of the stadium at $30, as though Tiger fans don’t have the money. While I wouldn’t condemn them for that per se, what really rubs me the wrong way is what they’re doing to their own fans in charging that amount.

Upping the price for a Tuesday game against LSU serves as an admission that Tulane’s product isn’t good enough to justify high-end prices on a normal basis. It also serves as an admission that playing LSU in a midweek game is more important than weekend games against their league opponents – which puts Tulane in the same boat as Northwestern State, UL-Monroe, Centenary, Southern and McNeese State, whether they like it or not. It also admits that Tulane can’t make enough revenue to stay afloat without LSU.

Perhaps those admissions are true. I find that sad, as while I’m not looking for a quality in-state rival for LSU in any sport there used to be some value in the LSU-Tulane series – whether in football, baseball or whatever. Clearly Tulane’s athletic program has taken a turn for the worse since the heyday of the rivalry, a decline accelerated by that hurricane but one which began years ago when the decision was made on Willow Street to abandon its Louisiana roots and instead shop itself out as a “safe” school for middling students from places like Syosset and Piscataway, who would drown their sorrows at not achieving Ivy League admissions in bars on Magazine Street. While those kids probably don’t hurt Tulane from an academic standpoint and for the most part they’ll pay their share of tuition they’ve proven to be a drain on that school’s donations base. They get out of Tulane, go back up North and forget all about the four years they spent in a haze in New Orleans – and when the fundraising letters come the maid throws them in the trash.

A couple of decades of this have produced a sclerotic and shrinking local fan base which can’t be grown beyond Tulane’s alumni, for the simple reason that the current fans are so obnoxious nobody else in New Orleans really wants to be identified with them, and an alumni base which is generally 1500 miles away or more and couldn’t be bothered to mail a $50 check much less fly in for a game once in a while.

And that has produced this sad spectacle, where Tulane attempts to stick it to both LSU fans and what supporters they do have left for a Tuesday night game which has very little meaning in the big scheme of things.

Both coaches are acting like the game is a big deal, though. Tulane is throwing lefty Aaron Loup, who has started midweek losses to UL-Monroe and Northwestern State already this year and sits with a 5.50 ERA, while LSU will go with lefty Chris Matulis (4-0, 2.51 ERA), the normal midweek guy. Tiger head coach Paul Mainieri says he’ll have freshman closer Matty Ott available tonight, which is not overly surprising but an indication he’s serious about winning the game.

Tulane is struggling at the plate like LSU is. As a team they’re hitting .293, which isn’t awful but it’s not great either, and they had a paltry 10 runs and 21 hits last weekend in losing two of three to a bad Houston club (9-17 for the season, 4-2 in CUSA).

One piece of baseball news – Aaron Ross earned SEC Pitcher Of The Week honors for that eight-inning gem he threw on Sunday. That makes the second week in a row an LSU hurler has earned the honor, as Ott took it home last week.

SEC Hoops Coaching Hires Looking Strong: Our readers by now have probably heard that Kentucky’s hiring of John Calipari looks imminent, as the Wildcats are offering Nick Saban-type money to the Memphis coach and he’s likely to take it even if the FedEx people in Memphis match the offer. Word is Calipari might be taking a couple of his current Memphis players with him to UK, as well as a couple of recruits – one of them being DeMarcus Cousins, who also could be in play for LSU or Alabama if Calipari does leave. Kentucky already had a pair of big-time recruits on hand in 6-10, 260-pound post Daniel Orton and 6-6 swingman Jon Hood, the 22nd and 32nd best players in the country according to Rivals, so any damage Calipari might do in the spring recruiting period would only make the Wildcats scarier next year.

The question would be whether Calipari would be able to convince Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson to stick around. If those two guys bypassed the NBA Draft for another year and he put them with Orton and Hood, all he’d need is a point guard and he’d have an option with JUCO transfer Konner Tucker, a 6-2 shooter from Lon Morris JC in Texas who committed two weeks ago. Or maybe Calipari might cut Tucker loose in pursuit of some of his Memphis recruits, which might mean LSU ought to make a call.

It’s not just Kentucky making a hire, though. Alabama hired Anthony Grant over the weekend and Grant is already working the road hard, making point guard Eric Bledsoe of Parker High in Birmingham, whose club beat Cousins’ Mobile LeFlore team on the way to the Class 5A title in Alabama last month. With a good November class already in place, Bama looks like a team with a chance to get a lot better next year.

Georgia still hasn’t hired a coach, though the guy whose name seems to be most prominent with their job is Missouri’s Mike Anderson. Anderson’s name came up several times for the Alabama job (he used to be the coach at UAB and before that he was an assistant to Nolan Richardson at Arkansas), and he’s apparently the guy Memphis will want if Calipari leaves for Kentucky. We’ll see if the Bulldogs can reel him in.

Point is, the SEC’s status as a second-tier basketball league along with the Atlantic 10 and Mountain West is about to come to a close. If LSU is going to stay anywhere near the top of the conference, which is a reasonable expectation given the quality of the coach the Tigers have, then recruiting had better pick up in a big way. The 2010 class is going to be a lot more heavily contested with Calipari and Grant in the league, and next season is going to be considerably more difficult with those guys roaming the sidelines in at least three games next year.

I’m confident, but I’m still scared to death. You’re welcome to figure that statement out at your leisure.

More Spring Camp Stuff: I missed this one yesterday, but Joe Schiefelbein’s column in the Advocate said something very similar to Tony Barnhart’s blog in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – namely, that LSU’s defense is brutal so far this spring.

I’ve been asked to throw a defensive depth chart together based on what’s going on, so here’s one which is by no means authoritative based on everything I’m hearing (you guys are welcome to throw your own ideas out in the Comments section):

LDE – Pep Levingston, Lavar Edwards
LDT – Al Woods, Cordian Hagans
RDT – Drake Nevis, Charles Alexander
RDE – Rahim Alem, Chase Clement
SAM – Kelvin Sheppard, Ryan Baker
MIKE – Jacob Cutrera, Kevin Minter
WILL – Perry Riley, Ace Foyil
LCB – Brandon Taylor, Chris Hawkins
RCB – Patrick Peterson, Jai Eugene
SS – Ron Brooks, Harry Coleman
FS – Chad Jones, Danny McCray

Obviously Taylor and Hawkins are interchangeable and I could be wrong about Brooks being ahead of Coleman – but all I hear is every day they’re trying a new guy at strong safety and I don’t think you’d do that if you were totally comfortable with your starter there. Also, we keep hearing one of the safeties – like McCray in all likelihood – will be moving to linebacker, but so far I don’t think it’s happened yet.

Tomorrow we’ll throw out an offensive depth chart and hopefully report on a $30 victory over Tulane.

 




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