January 13, 2004

LSU Fever: Are You Afflicted?

On the Chinese New Year calendar, 2004 is the Year of the Monkey. Judging by last week’s Sugar Bowl, however, it looks like this year is going to be the Year of the Tiger.

LSU pride is going strong all over Louisiana, and why not? Their football team just won the national championship. Just as it has elsewhere, Tiger fever has reached epic proportions in Acadiana. Symptoms include hard partying, loss of voice and sudden and total devotion to a school with which one has never attended or otherwise been affiliated. Some Lafayette cases experience extreme nausea.

Understanding this latest wave of LSU worship is not that difficult. LSU is a winner, and people just love winners—so much so that they are willing to neglect their own institutions just to jump on the bandwagon.

I knew that Lafayette was infected with LSU mania when the Daily Adver-Tiger began its way-too-over-the-top coverage of the Sugar Bowl (“Only 56 days away!”). Seeing so many daily profiles of hardcore LSU fans from Lafayette made me wonder where all of these local big-time fans suddenly came from. I can only hope that none of these fans pull the purse strings at UL Lafayette.

I realize that a lot of LSU alumni live in the Lafayette area; their loyalty is understandable and justified. I also realize that support for LSU doesn’t necessarily negate support for UL Lafayette or any other school. But for a cash-strapped university already being politically suppressed by its larger counterpart, UL supporters should think twice about donning the purple and gold.

Under the current Louisiana budget, LSU receives 50 percent of the money allotted for state universities; every other university (including UL Lafayette) shares the other half. This occurs because the University of Louisiana system, which oversees the operations of all state schools except LSU, is packed with members of the LSU Board.

LSU is big, bad and bringing UL Lafayette into a mini-civil war; witness the recent spate of conflict regarding LSU apparel in the last few issues of the Vermilion. How far should Cajun support of LSU go? Each side of the issue shows some degree of truth and some degree of ugliness.

Much criticism about this has come from athletes, who view these schools (and LSU in particular) as competition. In fact, the athletic training room has a rule against any non-UL athletic logo. I like this idea; just as an American soldier would not wear enemy gear out in the field, UL athletes have little use for putting on a rival uniform. However, policing what the general population can and cannot wear on campus is absurd.

Anyone who chastises others for wearing LSU apparel on campus should visit the Student Union sometime. In the lobby, dozens of flags represent each nation that boasts students here. Americans have long flown flags of other nations; doing so in no way diminishes the American flag. If UL students want to wear LSU colors, then let them. It doesn’t make me like UL any less or LSU any better.

Simply put, it does not bother me in the slightest which school someone pulls for in a football game. What concerns me (and the legions of the well-intentioned, if misguided, LSU haters) is that people in Lafayette will use a national championship to withdraw their money and support from their own programs to feed the Tigers. Of course, the Tigers do appreciate support no matter where it originates. LSU will happily take our money and pride…all the way to Baton Rouge. Let’s not forget that we too have a worthy school.

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