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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Two universities McNeese used to pound on in the state, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, are locked in a  battle over naming rights. (McNeese State University)

Two universities McNeese used to pound on in the state, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, are locked in a  battle over naming rights. (McNeese State University)

UL-Lafayette experiencing identity crisis

Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2014 11:26 AM

By Jim Gazzolo / American Press

McNeese State doesn’t need a major overhaul, nor does it need to move up in divisions to get some attention.

It just needs to change its name.

McNeese needs to add a hyphen here, take off a few letters there, maybe even add the word Louisiana in the right place — if it wants to keep up with the Jones.

Two universities McNeese used to pound on in the state are locked in a strange battle over naming rights.

The University of Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) seems to be perfectly fine with its name, call letters and place in the state’s pecking order.

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette (ULL or UL-L if you prefer) seems lost in that same world.

Now might be the right time for McNeese State President Dr. Phillip Williams to throw his school’s name into the hat, if you will.

How about the University of Louisiana-McNeese State?

Good ol’ ULMS. Or, if they ever make it to the Sun Belt Conference, UL-MS.

It doesn’t sound any worse than UL-Lake Charles.

Maybe they could even one day have an extension campus over the bridge. UL-MS at Sulphur might be a little much on second thought.

“I think we are comfortable staying McNeese State,” said MSU Sports Information Director Matthew Bonnette. “McNeese State is who we are and we will stay out of that fight.”

The battle seemed to start when UL-L, which it is officially now known according to a Sun Belt news release sent out Monday (and corrected with an apology on Tuesday), got a little better than the rest in football.

UL-L spokesman Aaron Martin told the Lafayette Advertiser “it is not the intention of the university to be called (UL-L).”

Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson suggested in the story that UL-Lafayette and UL-L both are name references approved by UL President Joseph Savoie following a solicitation of requests from the conference.

“This is definitely not my decision,” Benson told the Advertiser.

After years of playing in the shadows of Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge. You probably know the school better by its more publicized name, LSU, but let’s not lift one school over another.

For now we will call the Tigers LSU-BR.

They are the easy football program to find in the state. They are the ones always hovering around the top 10 with hopes of a BCS championship.

Sorry, more letters to deal with.

For the record, BCS does not stand for Basile College of Science.

Well, good old UL-L wanted to stand out, so it started calling its Ragin’ Cajun teams by the University of Louisiana. While dropping the Lafayette, ULL dropped the ball.

Pretty sure now UL-L would like to drop the hyphen. I wish everybody would drop the entire thing.

UL-L sent out a news release last year asking all media to call the school by the name the University of Louisiana.

While watching Ragin’ Cajun football last fall I noticed neither ESPN nor The Associated Press followed that request.

Both referred to how the Cajuns were named in Sun Belt standings. The league calls them Louisiana-Lafayette as well.

Apparently, not enough people are playing along with the letter of the request.

One thing is for sure, Benson has better things to do than get involved in this bayou hissy fit. Yet the conference felt it a big enough deal to send out a release making the point official.

Then again, even that said what you called the schools was up to each individual media outlet.

The American Press’ own Scooter Hobbs suggested that every year ULM and ULL play for the dropping of the letter.

It would not be winner-take-all but rather the winner would lose the hyphen.

For the record, if that was the case this year, the University of Louisiana would be in Monroe.

If all this seems silly it is.

UL-Whatever has done a great job turning its football program around. Three consecutive wins at the New Orleans Bowl has lifted the school’s profile both on and off the gridiron.

The future is bright in Lafayette no matter what the school ends up being called. That is what university officials should be promoting.

The Cajuns have built their program the right way.

Worrying about what people call them seems to be something the football program has outgrown.

Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at jgazzolo@americanpress.com

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