MULE': Cajuns looking for 1st-ever win vs LSU

All right, if history is any gauge, we know how the opening game of 2006 will turn out. LSU has played Louisiana-Lafayette (or its previous incarnations of Southwestern Institute or the University of Southwestern Louisiana) 20 times, and the Tigers never had a glove laid on them.

Going back to 1902, the schools, just 60 miles apart, have played football 20 times with LSU holding a 20-0-0 record, outscoring its neighbor an astounding cumulative 912-19, including such blowouts as 93-0 and 85-0. That comes out to an average score of 45.6 to 0.9. Of course, it only takes one game under the right circumstances to change that spotless record, but it is an indication of the historical task awaiting ULL.


LSU is the state's big cheese, Louisiana's flagship, its dominant athletic program.

But ULL takes a backseat to LSU – or anyone else – in one area: nicknames.


Just as it was in another poll a few years ago, the Ragin' Cajuns were the No. 1 choice this summer of an nationwide vote of the best college nicknames, based on uniqueness and the fit of the school to its area. ULL garnered 30.3 percent of the vote while the second-lace California-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs received 14.5 percent of the near half-million ballots. Alabama Crimson Tide was third at 9.5. The only other area school in the top 12 was the Tulane Green Wave at sixth with 4.2 percent.


Nary a Tiger was anywhere to be found.


Credit Russ Faulkinberry for the moniker. The story of how it came to be is as colorful as the name itself.


In 1963 Faulkinberry was the head football at ULL, then the University of Southwestern Louisiana and then playing with the ubiquitous nickname "Bulldogs,'' to which he had a secret objection.


One spring evening Faulkinberry was to speak at a Kiwanis Club meeting for boosters in which a ticket drive was scheduled to get under way. Filling in for the absent club president was a Cajun fellow from Kaplan who moderated the get-together. Dividing the fans into two "teams'' for the purpose selling tickets, he yelled out in a college-like cheer, "Give me the Roarin' Cajuns,'' and to the other "Give me the Ragin' Cajuns.''

Faulkinberry, who died last year, said when he heard the latter yell he thought, "Man, that's what I'm looking for.''


After the meeting broke up, Faulkinberry went back to his office and made notes. The next day he ordered USL's sports information director, Bob Henderson to immediately begin using "Ragin' Cajuns'' in lieu of "Bulldogs'' in all references to the football team. It worked particularly well for football because 43 of Faulkinberry's 45 players were from Acadiana, the largest pocket of the state's Cajun population and the location of the school.


The new appellation was singular, catchy, and added spice for an already peppery place and people. It was an immediate smash with fans. Basketball picked up the usage a couple of years later, then baseball. By the early ‘70s the school officially adopted it for all its athletic programs. It's a near-perfect and unique reflection of the culture of food, music and good times of Louisiana, and these colorful and feisty settlers.


It's so fitting that in 2000 The Sporting News said "Ragin' Cajuns'' was the No. 1 nickname in college sports, a title reaffirmed in 2006 by


On top of that, it restored a certain order for Faulkinberry, who grew up in Tennessee but was sensitive to the history of Acadiana. It was the British, of course, who drove the oppressed Acadians out of Nova Scotia, sending them on an odyssey that eventually led them to Louisiana. That history bothered Faulkinberry.


"There we were,'' he said, "playing in English-red jerseys, and with an English bulldog for our mascot. "That just didn't fit in Cajun Country.''




Marty Mule' can be reached at

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