By Chuck Colin
NEW ORLEANS – Dillard University is an institution that is best known for its legacy, prestige and tradition.
What it isn’t known for among today’s sports fans is for fielding a football team.
With HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) traditions come the playing of football on the gridiron and the sweet sound of marching bands in the stands under the Saturday night lights.
However, reestablishing a football program may not be as tough of a task as some think. Not only has the number of college football programs increased, but those teams have experienced some success.
According to the National Football Foundation, the 44 programs that added football from 2008-13 have combined for 10 conference championships and 12 playoff appearances.
Grand View University won the 2013 NAIA National Championship in only its sixth season of play.
This should be a potentially encouraging sign as Dillard operates within the NAIA as well.
A football team could also potentially increase student enrollment, which at Dillard was approximately 1,200 students for the 2013-14 school year, according to U.S. News college rankings. It would also increase the male student population, which is only 29 percent of all students.
Although the Bleu Devils are currently missing out on the football aspect of the college experience, that hasn’t always been the case. According to school archives Bleu Devils football dates back to 1935, which was the year Straight College and New Orleans University merged to form Dillard.
Along with college football comes rivalries. When one thinks of a Dillard University rival, Xavier University instantly comes to mind. The cross town foes have played in the Xavier/Dillard Basketball Classic annually since the 1947-48 season, but also squared off in the Turkey Bowl, an annual football game during Thanksgiving weekend.
The peak of Bleu Devils football came during the 1957-58 season under the guidance of coach Armstead A. Perrio in which the 29-player team won eight of its nine games en route to capturing an undefeated conference title. Their highlight was of course the Turkey Bowl, which the Bleu Devils won 13-12.
Despite not having a football team since 1965, the Bleu Devils have maintained their fierce rivalries and athletic competition in other sports. But there’s just something about school spirit and football.
Imagine the black college football season without the Bayou Classic between the Grambling University Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars, which is the second-most attended HBCU Classic. According to the Southwestern Athletic Conference, over 47,000 fans attended the latest meeting, but attendance consistently reached over 70,000 in its peak years right before Hurricane Katrina.
Coincidentally, Dillard University’s last football game came during the 1964 season in a 38-3 defeat against Southern University. With the Bayou Classic not beginning until 1974, and the game being held annually in Dillard’s backyard at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, it makes me wonder, “What could’ve been?”
There’s something to be said about football in the autumn weather, homecoming games, tailgating,and that awesome energy that surrounds campus as game-day approaches.