September 4, 2003
Carol J. Schlueter
The Caller, a Tulane alumnus, said he felt guilty for not calling sooner. Vince Granito listened sympathetically. He's heard many confessions this spring from long-missing Tulane sports fans, and he has the remedy close at hand. Tickets. Season tickets to Green Wave games. Granito, associate athletics director who oversees the ticket operation, is a happy man.
Season football tickets have surpassed 12,000 for the first time in at least two decades. If it took a major crisis over university funding for athletics--and an intense "Think Green" campaign for ticket sales and donations that began in early May--to shame apathetic Tulane fans into action, so be it.
"We've seen support and people getting involved we've never seen before," Granito said. Tickets are critically important as "tangible, sustainable support"--words that President Scott Cowen used to describe what athletics needs to survive over the long term.
Even more crucial are donations to the athletics annual fund and its endowment, which rose substantially in the recent campaign engineered by athletics director Rick Dickson. The issue of future support for athletics has been the focus of public controversy and media attention this spring because of a review by the Board of Tulane and its ad hoc committee. On June 10, the board voted unanimously to continue Division I-A athletics at Tulane. The much-awaited vote brought sighs of relief from anxious Tulane athletics staff, student-athletes and fans.
Cowen, however, said the decision was "not the status quo" because athletics has to meet goals for generating revenues and reducing expenditures, to operate within an allowable subsidy of $2 million by 2007. When the board review became public in early May, Dickson kicked off the "Think Green" campaign. Fans came forward "in an upsurge of passion and support," buying tickets, displaying "Think Green" yard signs, volunteering on phone banks, donating money and showering the university with letters, phone calls and e-mail messages.
Getting long-dormant Tulane sports supporters to "Think Green" is not enough; Dickson also wants them to "think long-term." "Everything we did initially in this first call to action, every ticket solicited, every gift we asked for, was on a five-year basis," he said. The campaign touched many constituencies. About 150 businesses purchased "Green Team" books, providing hundreds of football tickets to charity and youth groups.
The six current National Football League players from Tulane together purchased 1,000 youth season tickets for football. They are Shaun King, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Patrick Ramsey, Washington Redskins; JaJuan Dawson, Houston Texans; Dennis O'Sullivan and Jerald Sowell, New York Jets; and Bernard Robertson, Chicago Bears.
Local leaders also showed support, from the sheriffs of three parishes who bought $5,000 in youth football tickets, to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin (B '94) and the New Orleans City Council, which unanimously passed a resolution of support. "Our focus was to raise the level of support," said Scott Sidwell, associate athletics director for corporate development. "We've been able to cut through the apathy out there."
Dickson saluted the tireless work on "Think Green" by booster groups, alumni and the community. He also had high praise for the athletics department family--the 300 student-athletes "who didn't give up hope or faith" and the "remarkable" work by more than 90 staff members and the coaches "who had to keep people focused through so much uncertainty." Their work has continued this summer, promoting tickets for the football season, doing fundraising and looking for ways to make more budget cuts.
"I told the staff and coaches, if there is another 5 to 10 percent to be gained, let's roll up our sleeves and find it-- we have to," Dickson said. He also intends "to bottle and capture the widespread enthusiasm in the greater New Orleans community and in the greater Tulane community across the country."
Carol J. Schlueter is director of publications at Tulane; she can be reached at email@example.com.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org