UL Athletic Director Discusses Blackout Game, Sun Belt Expansion
Tonight (Thursday, November 4), the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns will once again host a nationally-televised football game when they face the Georgia State Panthers at Cajun Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30. ESPN will televise the contest.
Tonight's game is a blackout game, with fans encouraged to wear black to support the Cajuns. According to UL athletics director Dr. Bryan Maggard, the Cajuns need a packed house at Cajun Field not just to support the team, but to also send a message to the audience watching on TV.
The game is also the team's annual Military Appreciation Game. Current and former members of the military will receive free admission to the game. In addition, UL faculty and staff members will get free admission with their IDs. Youth football players who wear their jerseys to the game will also receive free admission.
The attendance topic was one of several Dr. Maggard discussed when he stopped by our studio Thursday morning. Here's a taste of what he said.
On the need for fans to attend the game in person:
"We need a great showing again. Our fans did a tremendous job for homecoming--over 28,000 people--but we need that tonight on the flagship, ESPN. I think it just makes a statement.
"In addition to showcasing the university and the city of Lafayette, Louisiana, people see that, hey, that's a community that supports their football program. It just continues to elevate our profile, and I got more compliments from people who watched the (homecoming) game on TV saying how good (the crowd) looked on TV."
On how attendance impacts the Ragin' Cajuns name brand:
"It continues to elevate it--not just the name brand, but the university as a whole. That's what I keep telling people. Athletics is merely a vehicle to elevate the profile of the entire university. We have a great university in southern Louisiana right here. You can use that opportunity to grow your enrollment. That generates revenue for the university as a whole. When you do that, you're able to attract even better faculty than you already have. Then you can grow your academic programs. It elevates the profile of the whole institution, but it also elevates the profile of Lafayette, Louisiana--the community and the region. When people see that this is a thriving football program--you can look at Alabama, you can look at other schools that have had that experience, and the sport of football was one vehicle that helped elevate the entire university and the community."
On the Sun Belt Conference's recent expansion:
"We feel like that of all the leagues that transitioned, we had the most success. We knew as a conference that we were better together, and everyone was committed to staying together because we have a great thing going. With the four teams we just added--the official announcement from (James Madison University) will come on Saturday morning--we could not be more happy, and we feel like we're in a great position to continue to rise. Our goal: We want to dominate the Group of Five, and we feel like we took huge steps (toward) doing that."
"We added four quality programs that have tremendous fanbases. I can't wait until we host Southern Miss over here for a football game because their fans will travel, and I know App State feels the same way about Marshall. It's going to be a great opportunity to continue to build regional rivalries and to provide fans the opportunity to travel easily to some away games."
The latest on Cajun Field renovations
"We're still in the fundraising mode. We're right around the $32 million mark in monies raised. We've got several asks out there right now and gifts we need to close, and we have more asks to make. Then we'll go out and start selling our premium products, like our suites, our club seats, and our loge boxes. That will generate a tremendous amount of revenue that will go toward the funding of this project. We're in the design phase now. We're still trying to finish out on raising those philanthropic capital gifts. Knock on wood, if all goes as planned, hopefully we can start turning dirt next summer."
On the possibility of Louisiana Tech returning to the Sun Belt Conference
"I think Louisiana Tech would be a program that, should the Sun Belt want to add schools down the road after the dust settles with these four new adds, and should we realize that it makes sense to do that--and it would have to make sense for us--I think you would have to logically look at Louisiana Tech just from a regionality, geographic standpoint. Right now, our appetite is to get these four new schools settled in (and) let's transition them in. Again, if the league feels that it makes sense to add, maybe, two more schools, then I think you'd see LA Tech in the conversation for sure."
"There's no sense of urgency to (add Louisiana Tech) right now. There's no magic number whether it's 14 or 16 (teams). We do recognize that should we add, we would want to look at quality of athletic programs and geographic locations, and certainly, without a doubt, Louisiana Tech checks both boxes, but we would need to find another school to do that, as well."
The full interview with Dr. Maggard is included below. Click the YouTube icon to hear it.