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Know Your Enemy: Tulane

[extreme Zack de la Rocha voice]: WHAT?! The “land of the Green Wave?” Whoever told you that is your enemy!

South Alabama v Tulane Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

After a comfortable season-opening win against Mercer, Ole Miss heads to New Orleans to face Tulane in a game featuring a decrease in comfort levels.

Not because Tulane is a destroyer of worlds, but the Green Wave are the first taste of FBS competition in 2023 and are not a standard non-conference free win. Over the last 8 full seasons, Willie Fritz has turned Tulane into a competent program, and one with enough juice to win last year’s Cotton Bowl over USC.

In the 10 season prior to Fritz’s arrival, Tulane won a total of 34 games. Since Fritz took over in 2016, the Green Wave have won 44 games, which includes a nasty 2-10 hiccup in 2021. If not for that, they would be closer to 50 wins in 8 years.

Last week, Tulane beat South Alabama 37-17 to start their season 1-0. While that game was closer than the score indicated (FORESHADOWING), the Green Wave showed the ability to hit the gas pedal and create separation.

So let’s get to know Tulane, both as a university and a football team.


As you may have heard, Tulane’s main campus is in New Orleans, near the Audubon Zoo and golf course by the zoo. Related, the Audubon Zoo is worth a visit and a great way to spend time in New Orleans that doesn’t involve stuffing your face with food.

I remember as a youth even taking a riverboat cruise from the aquarium (also a good visit) to the zoo. I assume I had fun, although no doubt some whining involved because kids love to whine.

The point being, there are a billion things to do in New Orleans and they’re all pretty fun.

History of Tulane

In 1834, seven doctors founded Tulane as the Medical College of Louisiana, which, at the time, was the second medical school in the South and 15th in the United States. In 1847, the Louisiana state legislature did some legislating and turned it into a public school known as the University of Louisiana.

Its first president was Francis Lister Hawks, an Episcopal priest who once headed a church in Holly Springs, Mississippi in the 1830s. During the Civil War, like many schools in the South, it closed and reopened after the war.

After post-war financial difficulties, a wealthy businessman named Paul Tulane donated real estate to the city, which led to the creation of the Tulane Educational Fund in 1882. A board of administrators ran the fund, and they used their influence and lobbying powers to convince the state legislature to give them control of the University of Louisiana in 1884.

Thus, Tulane University of Louisiana came into existence as a private school. Thanks to the work of the 1880s Koch brothers, Tulane is one of the few public universities in the country to become a private institution.

But that’s not all! Paul Tulane’s donation to the school noted that it could only admit white students, and the state legislature readily agreed because being super racist at that time was more important than oxygen.

In 1894, the school moved to its current location on St. Charles Avenue, which made me curious as to where the original location was. After one (1) google search, the answer was several locations, with the most years spent in the Superdome*.

*Entirely possible I made that part up.

Rapid Fire Tulane Trivia

  • Tulane’s total enrollment in 2021 was a little over 14,000, with about 8,600 undergraduate students
  • The average ACT score for students is 32
  • Tulane’s North Shore campus in Covington, Louisiana is home to the federally funded Tulane National Primate Research Center, which as the name suggests, does research on monkeys
  • Tulane’s main campus was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1978
  • Tulane’s president lives in a house donated to the school by a man named Sam Zemurray, who was born in Russia (present-day Moldova) before emigrating to the United States as a teenager
  • Zemurray made his money in the banana trade (founded the Cuyamel Fruit Company), but more importantly, in 1910, he helped stage a successful coup in Honduras in order to get cash money and land benefits for his company from a more Sam Zemurray friendly Honduran government (LEGEND)

Notable Alumni

  • Newt Gingrich - Professional grifting weasel
  • Jerry Springer - Late 90s king of syndicated TV at 10:00 PM on your local stations
  • John Kennedy Toole - Author of A Confederacy for Dunces
  • Luis Guillermo Solis - President of Costa Rica from 2014-18
  • Gene Taylor - Former member of the United States House of Representatives from Mississippi
  • James Andrews - Orthopedic surgeon mentioned more times on sports broadcasts than any other surgeon
  • Jonathan Hensleigh - Screenwriter who was involved with Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, and Gone in 60 Seconds (THE MOST TALENTED MAN TO EVER STEP ON CAMPUS)

Great Moments in Tulane Athletics

Tulane hanging around and helping USC cough up a 15-point lead with 4:30 to play in last year’s Cotton Bowl.

As a refresher, this is how things went once Tulane got the ball down 45-30:

  • Tulane 59-yard pass
  • Tulane 4-yard TD run (45-37)
  • USC fumbles kickoff out of bounds at their own 1
  • USC run for 0 yards
  • USC run for -1 yards - safety (45-39)
  • Tulane gets the ball, and this was the scenario with 34 seconds left:

Four plays later, Tulane scored to tie it at 45 with 9 seconds left, then kicked the extra point for the lead.

Masterpiece in collapse. No notes.

What About the Football Team in 2023?

Let’s review who was on the 2022 team but is not on the 2023 team:

  • Starting running back
  • 5 of the top 7 receivers (counting the running back)
  • 5 top tacklers (including the 2 starting linebackers and 2 safeties)

Like Ole Miss in spots, they’re relying on transfers to make up for lost production. The good news for Tulane is they do return 4 of 5 starting offensive linemen and quarterback Michael Pratt, who makes everything go.

As for last week against South Alabama, they led the Jaguars 24-17 with 7:12 to play. Tulane then hit a 48-yard touchdown pass to go up 31-17 with just over 4 minutes left.

South Alabama responded with:

  • Turnover on downs
  • Interception
  • Fumble

Even more spectacularly, Tulane was at the Jaguars’ 16-yard line (up 34-17) when they fumbled and South Alabama recovered, but they fumbled it back to Tulane during the return. The Jaguars finished with 5 total turnovers (Tulane had 3) and a missed field goal.

Some stats of note that could translate to Saturday:

  • Tulane averaged 3.9 yards/carry (without sack yardage)
  • South Alabama was 8/14 on 3rd and 4th downs
  • Tulane scored on passes of 47, 47, and 48 yards, which helped them average 8.2 yards/play for the game, but on their other 50 plays, they averaged 5.9 yards/play, indicating they need explosive plays or the sledding gets tougher

That 5.9 yards/play number is solid but not great (ranks somewhere around 35th-40th in the country), especially when you consider the opponent. If Ole Miss takes away those explosive plays, Tulane is likely to have even less success, especially if the running game is average at best.

On the other side of the ball, if you take out sack yardage, South Alabama averaged 4.1 yards/carry. That’s not a great number, but it’s ploddingly average and an indication that Tulane’s run defense didn’t shut things down. And once South Alabama went down two scores, they called 11 pass plays to one running play for the rest of the game, which is where they did not want to be.

The sample size for 2023 Tulane is too small to know who they are yet, but we do know they are literally not 2022 Tulane. If Ole Miss avoids five turnovers and allowing explosive plays that make life easier for the Tulane offense, I would feel pretty good about what happens on Saturday.