Many Tech and ULL fans will go to great lengths to say the schools aren’t “rivals”. But in a thou dost protest too much way, it sure feels like the two colleges are. Although everyone has different definitions of what makes something a rivalry, the Tech-ULL conflict covers the most important part: a mutual hatred of the other team.
From a Tech fan’s perspective, most of that disdain in recent years comes from one place: UL Lafayette’s insistence on being called the University of Louisiana.
Tomorrow night, the Bulldogs face off against the Cajuns in Lafayette in the grand old sport of
shooty hoops basketball. So this seems as good of a time as any to open the history books and look at Louisiana-Lafayette’s long past of naming issues.
This post is about the name UL Lafayette uses, so you might expect me start with that whole “UL”/”ULL” situation.
But let’s back up a bit first.
The school now known as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was founded 1901 and fielded a football team in its first year. Alternatively, Louisiana Tech was founded in 1894, but didn’t field a football team until the same year as ULL: 1901.
Both schools decided to name themselves the Bulldogs.
A sports team called the Bulldogs isn’t the most uncommon, but what are the odds two teams (less than 200 miles apart) just so happened to use the same name? But more importantly: did one team simply copy the other team’s name?
So let’s look at when each team started playing. ULL’s first game was on December 21, 1901 against Opelousas. But Tech’s first game was on October 28, 1901.
So Tech had nearly two full months of dibs on the nickname when the school in Lafayette “borrowed” it. And it’s also possible another Tech sports team used “Bulldogs” before the football team’s October 1901 opener against LSU (that I will not mention the score of).
That may not enough to “prove” that ULL copied Tech. But it at least proves Tech didn’t copy ULL.
And of course, ULL did eventually change their name. In 1963, football coach Russ
Fuccinberry Fakinbarry Faulkinberry changed the name to the Ragin’ Cajuns, which I will concede, is a pretty good regional name. But this is the only thing I will concede.
And it doesn’t make up for stealing Tech’s team name six decades earlier.
University of Louisiana
Enough delaying the inevitable, let’s talk about “UL”.
When the school in Lafayette was founded, they were originally named the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLII). Of course, many schools go through name changes through the years. For example, at the time of SLII‘s founding, Tech was known as the Louisiana Industrial Institute (LII).
LII became Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, which turned into the Louisiana Tech University we know and love today.
Meanwhile, Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute lost an eye to become Southwestern Louisiana Institute which changed to the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1960.
Each time these names changes occurred (to either school), it was the result of a change to the Louisiana constitution.
And that brings us all the way up to 1984. The Lafayette school wanted another name change, but this time tried an
Orwellian adjusted approach. The school attempted to simply change its name to the University of Louisiana without an act of (Louisiana’s) congress.
It was less than a month before the State of Louisiana forced the school to change its name back to the University of Southwestern Louisiana. The school still desperately wanted a name change, and 15 years later (in 1999), they had it.
I’ll let ULL’s official website tell the story:
For a while in the 1980s, UL Lafayette literally made a name for itself, The University of Louisiana. A subsequent act of the Louisiana Legislature nullified that name change, but Authement [the University president] persisted. On September 10, 1999, his perseverance was rewarded when he walked onto a stage before an audience of alumni, visiting dignitaries, administrators, faculty, and students in the Cajundome. There, before several thousand people, with the blessing of the State of Louisiana, he signed an order that changed the university’s name to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Sounds kinda cult-ish, but whatever. ULL finally had a new name. Everyone would be happy now, right?
Well, the school had made their endgame quite clear back in 1984: they wanted to be known as the University of Louisiana.
But there were several things standing in their way. The biggest of which was Policy M(2) of the University of Louisiana System, which was implemented when USL became ULL.
You can find the full document here, but I’ll pull out some key sections.
Section III, Guideline C:
The use of the two-letter University of Louisiana abbreviation, “UL,” and/or the
phrase “U of L” are prohibited by the university or any of its affiliated organizations
(alumni associations, development foundations, bookstores, etc.). For academic,
public relations, athletic, as well as other purposes not specified, the use of the
University of Louisiana abbreviation must always include the abbreviation for the
municipal location of the institution. For example, ULR is appropriate for University
of Louisiana at Rayne.
Section III, Guideline D:
All uses of the name “University of Louisiana” must be followed by the word “at”
and the institution’s geographic location. No typographic variations within the name
are permitted. The word “at” must be no less than 50% and the geographic location
must not exceed 100% nor be less than 80% of the University of Louisiana name.
Any institutional use of “University of Louisiana” without the “at” and geographic
location is prohibited.
Note: I don’t see anywhere where “geographic location” is defined as a city. So I guess ULL could call themselves University of Louisiana at Louisiana and it would fulfill the guidelines.
So the plan changed.
The school couldn’t legally get its name changed, but if they could just get everyone to call them “University of Louisiana” and “UL”, it wouldn’t really matter what was “official”.
So the school did a few things. First up: re-branding the athletic programs. According to the UL-Lafayette Director of Communications and Marketing, the school started using the “Louisiana” moniker for it’s sports programs in 1999, the year of the name change to ULL.
But why didn’t the UL System force the school to stop breaking the rule that was set up to prevent this exact thing?
Because the school wasn’t calling itself Louisiana, just the athletic program. Also, the sporting teams weren’t calling themselves the “University of Louisiana”, just “Louisiana”. So this didn’t exactly break the M(2) Policy Agreement, it just strongly went against the spirit of it.
But that’s not all.
The University created a guideline saying: “Do not refer to the University as ULL in any instance.”
So how else are you supposed to shorten University of Louisiana at Lafayette?
I suggest students should have gone with UoLaL, but realistically, there isn’t any way to look at this where the University doesn’t look like it was trying to get people to use the “UL” abbreviation.
Another (non-athletic) area to mention is the website: louisiana.edu. According to the Whois record, the domain was registered in 1999 (again the same year as the USL -> ULL name change). Of course, LouisianaLafayette.edu was too long, and conveniently, ULL.edu would have been “improper” due to that random school guideline, so what ever could the little school do but register louisiana.edu.
So TL;DR of this mess: the UL System agreed to let the university in Lafayette change its name to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 1999. It took the school a grand total of 0 years to decide it didn’t like its name, so they do everything they can to be force people to call them “University of Louisiana”.
But it’s not the University of Louisiana. It’s never been recognized by the state as the University of Louisiana. But you know what school has?
The Actual UL
A few hours before Tech and ULL face off on the court tomorrow night, the Cajuns’ football team will be in a bowl game up against the original UL:
Although it was originally founded in 1834 as the Medical College of Louisiana, the school now known as Tulane was renamed as the University of Louisiana in 1847. After the civil war, the public university was lacking funding, so Paul Tulane (along with many others) contributed the funds to privatize the school.
The school was renamed in honor of Paul Tulane (which you should have seen coming at this point; the school is called Tulane).
So there is already history attached to that name of UL.
So here’s what we have:
- UL Lafayette originally called their sports teams the Bulldogs, even though Tech (a school they share a state with) had already been using that nickname
- UL Lafayette has been trying to go by UL since at least 1984
- UL Lafayette is not allowed to call themselves “UL” or “University of Louisiana” per Policy M(2), but has attempted to exploit every possible way to get around this
- UL Lafayette isn’t even the true “University of Louisiana”, that title belongs to the original UL: Tulane
Are there bigger issues in the world than what another school calls itself? Yes. But I don’t know how to cure cancer, so I’ll focus some of my attention here instead.
But also, why does this matter? Why does it affect me in any way what another university calls itself?
Because there’s a reason UL Lafayette wants to drop the Lafayette.
UL Lafayette wants to be known as a flagship school of the UL System. They want to be the “second school” in Louisiana, on par with LSU.
But in the UL System, all schools are equal. Some schools are “better” than others, but they don’t get treated differently by the UL System.
And that’s due to that pesky little M(2) Policy again:
Section III, Policy A:
As previously stated, there is no main campus for the University of Louisiana
System. Any designation of or reference to a member institution as “flagship,”
“lead,” “main,” or other similar descriptor is prohibited.
If you want to avoid seeing ULL call itself something it’s not, we have this neat Chrome extension over here. And if you want to attack me personally on Twitter this time, please think of something more creative than “basement dweller” this time.