Change is good.
I’ve been writing Small World for a while now, linking cities together that are part of a ‘twin towns’ or ‘sister cities’ program. And while it has yielded some interesting connections, cool imagery and some far-off locales, the format was getting a little stale. So keeping in the spirit of linking together locations because of our strong interest in geography, we’re going to spin it a little differently from now on. Last month we serendipitously landed in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so that will be our new jumping off point. What direction are we taking then? Well, we are going to do our best to link together college campuses. After all, we’re very pro-education here at Apollo Mapping.
So this month we head south to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, home to the LSU Tigers and Death Valley, “where dreams go to die.” What’s the connection? Les Miles. A former football player at UM under Bo Schembechler, back in 2007, after Lloyd Carr stepped down, all the talking heads assumed Les was headed north to right his alma mater. Those heads were wrong. A botched hiring attempt due to too much publicity and likely a little brashness or foolishness resulted in Michigan not getting a Michigan Man. Everyone who gives a rat’s patooty about college football knows how the next seven seasons went… So will Les depart LSU and the all-powerful SEC? Another SEC great, Bear Bryant, upon leaving Texas A&M for ‘Bama said, (paraphrasing here) “when momma calls, you come running.” Momma’s calling Les.
Football is king in the South, but this type of football is played on college campuses, so we’ll give some due to the ‘student’ portion of student-athlete and explore the University and its campus a bit. Founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy was headed by General William Tecumseh Sherman. But wasn’t he a Yankee you might be asking yourself? Yes, he was. He graduated from west Point in 1840 and served in the South for several decades. Apparently his heart, or his mind, was still in the North though, but we’ll let you touch up on that history on your own. The University had stability issues early on, especially during the Civil War, but it reopened in October of 1865, only to be burned to the ground four years later. Shortly thereafter it began its new life in Baton Rouge.
Southern BBQ is best, no doubt, so appropriately the first building constructed on campus was the Swine Palace, a livestock barn that is now a theater. I imagine early Arkansas Razorbacks steered clear of that edifice! Since we started off talking a little pigskin, we’ll continue to do so. The football program started in 1893 and has three national titles, fourteen SEC titles and a 65% win percentage. Much as many of the schools in the south, the program is steeped with rich lore and time-honored traditions. One of the most-notable is the simple fact that they prefer to play at night when home. This has something to do with the high temperatures and humidity during the day, but it also makes for a more intimidating environment. One of the more annoying tradition is the fans’ incessant cries of “Tiger Bait!” to their opponents. I learned this the hard way when Illinois got punched in the mouth by LSU in the 2002 Sugar Bowl in NOLA.
To bring it back to the spirit of education associated with LSU, the campus is decorated with beautiful buildings home to excellent scholarship and works of art. LSU has eight museums, the oldest of which, the Museum of Natural Science, dates back to the 1930s. The Rural Life Museum is nationally known as one of the most popular open-air museums in the country. LSU is also part of the national Association of Research Libraries, a collection of libraries from 113 high-intensity research universities in the country. LSU is a well-respected place of scholarship that just happens to have an excellent football program ‘to boot’ (pun intended). Will they still have their coach come the start of the year?