By Lauren Goodman
NEW ORLEANS – Tulane University’s football program returned to campus with the excitement of its home openerSaturday in the new Yulman Stadium against Georgia Tech.
Despite the New Orleans summer heat, students, alumni, and fans came out to show their support for the Green Wave and welcome its return to campus. Fans were eager to see the new stadium and soak in a new college football experience.
After nearly 40 years of playing off campus, Yulman Stadium offers a chance for Tulane fans to watch their team with a traditional college football atmosphere week in and week out, something the Mercedes-Benz Superdome was unable to provide.
Early in the day, students and alumni gathered in the quad where they tailgated, something previously missing from their football experience.
Sophomore student Spencer noted the change in feel.
“It’s awesome to be back on campus,” he said. “We don’t have to take a shuttle to the games. The stadium is on campus. We can tailgate on the quad with our friends.”
Entering the stadium, Tulane fans shared their pride by chanting “Green Wave.”
“The new stadium is exciting for the whole community,” said Jeff Yellin, a New Orleans native. “I’m not even a Tulane graduate, and it’s been a fun day.”
Clayton, another local, has watched the football team play in all three stadiums: on campus in old Tulane Stadium, the Superdome, and now Yulman.
“I’m happy the games are back in Uptown,” he said. “It’s nicer for the students. They can fill the stadium up with fans.”
Yulman Stadium seats 30,000, where the Superdome can accommodate over 73,000. The more intimate stadium provides an atmosphere in line with other college athletic programs across the country.
Dennis Stargel, a Georgia Tech fan and father of Georgia Tech defensive end Tyler Stargel, liked Tulane’s new home field.
“It’s a very nice stadium,” Stargel said. “Not as big as some of the others, but real nice.”
Yulman Stadium not only brings football back to campus, it brings higher expectations. In 2013, Tulane’s football team finished 7-6 under then second-year coach Curtis Johnson.
Andrew Berkheimer, a Tulane alum and season ticket holder, was excited to see the progress.
“This is the second year I’ve had my season tickets,” he said. “I wanted to support my school and I’m a big fan of coach Johnson. I believe in him.”
A constant theme among fans throughout the day was, “Why didn’t this happen sooner?”
“I keep thinking about how nice this would have been when I was a student,” Berkheimer said. “I graduated in 2007 and being able to tailgate on campus and walk to the stadium would have been so great.”
There was no lack of excitement among fans to have their football team back home in Uptown.
The excitement continued at kickoff, marking Georgia Tech and Tulane’s 49th meeting, although they hadn’t played each other in over 30 years.
Tulane forced a turnover deep in Georgia Tech’s territory on the first play after the opening kickoff and quarterback Tanner Lee threw the first touchdown pass in Yulman Stadium on a third-down throw to Justyn Shackelford.
By the end of the first quarter, the Green Wave was leading the Yellow Jackets, 14-7, but the momentum wouldn’t last.
Georgia Tech would take the lead in the second quarter after two turnovers by Tulane and would remain in the lead for the rest of the game.
Lee was pulled in the third quarter and finished 13 of 24 passing for 173 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions as Tulane fell to Georgia Tech 38-21.
Tulane’s 0-2 start to the 2014 season signals that there is work to be done, but its new stadium shows the school’s commitment to their football program.