LAFAYETTE, La. (The Daily Advertiser) – The University of Louisiana at Lafayette baseball team released its 2017 schedule on Monday, and the site for all of the Ragin’ Cajuns’ home games is listed as “to-be-determined.”
Where, oh where, will the Cajuns play in March and April?
Not even the coach, Tony Robichaux, can say.
“I know the million-dollar question … is ‘When, and where, and how?’ ” Robichaux said Monday.
Actually, it’s more like a $16 million question.
That’s the rough price tag for ongoing renovation work at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field, home of the frequently nationally ranked Cajuns.
Everyone close to the program wants to know when the project will be compete, but no one – not even Robichaux – knows for sure.
“But that’s not really my job at this point in time,” Robichaux said. “It’s to get our players ready.”
The construction timeline largely hinges on the weather, and that’s not something Robichaux can control.
“We don’t know what kind of December we’re gonna have,” the Cajun coach said. “So we don’t have a hard date.
“We’re just getting the team ready, and as they get closer, as they hang more steel and stuff, hopefully they’ll give our administration some checkpoints along the way, and then from there they’ll call us in and let us know what those are.”
UL is scheduled to play its first eight games on the road, beginning Feb. 17, 2017, against Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond.
The Cajuns also have road games against LSU (in Metairie) and Texas (in Sugar Land, Texas) later in the season.
The first time they’re slated to play at home is a three-game series March 3-5 against Southern Mississippi.
Before the calendar flips to April, UL also a has three-game home series against St. Peters on March 10-12, a three-game series with Appalachian State beginning March 17, a home against Houston on March 21 and a three-game series with South Alabama that starts March 31.
Nine Cajun home games are scheduled in April, including the final two of the series with South Alabama.
An original construction timeline calls for the project to be completed around April 22, but reality suggests there still is no way of telling if that’s the date it actually will be done.
Steel support beams for the stadium’s new grandstand now are in place, but much work remains.
“Obviously with this good weather we’ve been having we’re not behind schedule at this point,” said John Dugas, UL’s associate director of athletics for internal operations.
But with a construction project of this magnitude having so many moving parts, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will stay that way.
“Because, knock on wood, while things are going really good right now,” Dugas said, “we can get a December where it rains every day.”
Numerous alternative-venue sites remain as possibilities, including other college stadiums in Louisiana, Zephyr Field in New Orleans and nearby Fabacher Field in Youngsville.
“Right now we have not eliminated any other options,” Dugas said.
“Anything in the state (is possible), at this point, because we have to assume worst-case scenario, or the longest timeline.”
Another possibility: Playing at The Tigue even if the grandstand project, which include suites and a new press box, is not complete.
“Many schools play at a stadium that’s under construction,” Dugas said. “How much of The Tigue can be used, even if they’re still working on the grandstand?”
But that prompts more unanswered questions.
“Would that be in early March?” Dugas asked. “Would that in mid-March, where we would have a partial move-in?
“The bottom line: Obviously there are a lot of considerations, but the business of the game has always got to be the top priority. Is the field good? Is the mound good? The bullpens, lights? And we know at The Tigue it all is.”
Options indeed are plentiful.
But the project is not far enough along to start eliminating any.
“Everything’s up on the table right now,” Robichaux said. “They’re fact-finding everything – costs, logistics, travel time for our fans.
“Our biggest thing we want to do is try to make decisions that are, one, conducive for our team, and the other team you’re playing, the integrity of the game, and then also being as empathetic as we can to our fan base.”
While the March games remain question marks, all of those in April do too.
That includes the last two games of the South Alabama series, a three-game series with Arkansas State and single games against Nicholls State, Tulane, Southeastern Louisiana, and McNeese State.
“We have to plan,” Dugas said, “even a little beyond (April 22).
“Because what happens if we do have a month straight of really bad rain, where they even do use all the rain days up and then we get behind? South Louisiana, that’s always a possibility.
“So we have to ready for all of that,” he added. “However, on the flip side, the weather can stay nice, we can get ahead of things here and then we can move back in sooner than expected.”