Tulane finally recognizes champion team of 1970

Well, it was long overdue. The 1970 Tulane football team, a team that made Green Wave football relevant again, was finally chosen for induction into the university’s athletics hall of fame.

Tulane University had been through some dark football times, but all of that changed in 1966 when head coach Jim Pittman arrived. His first team had a winning record but then finished with a losing record for three straight seasons before 1970 happened.

It was the self-proclaimed “Year of the Green.” It was a treat watching a team with so many expectations actually deliver.

That year, the Tulane football team won eight games against a very difficult schedule. Tulane defeated Georgia, Illinois, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Miami, North Carolina State and the University of Colorado in the Liberty Bowl.

That Colorado team was extremely talented, led by future NFL stars Herb Orvis and Cliff Branch. Branch would set an NCAA record at Colorado with eight kickoff returns for touchdowns. Tulane won 17-3.

There were only 11 bowl games played that season. Two of them ended in ties.

Tulane joined Auburn, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, Arizona State, Toledo and Georgia Tech as bowl game winners. Contrast that with 41 postseason games played after the 2016 season, allowing teams with 5-7 records to play in bowl games.

In 1970, being a bowl team was special, and winning a bowl game was a superb accomplishment.

The 1970 Tulane team was led by Bullard’s Bandits, a secondary led by Joe Bullard, Paul Ellis and David Hebert. That defense intercepted 28 passes.

Running back David Abercrombie was the leading rusher that season with 993 yards.

Pittman was a no-nonsense, tough guy, and his football team reflected his grit. After leading Tulane to the Liberty Bowl, Pittman resigned to take the head coaching position at TCU. He suffered a heart attack and died on the sidelines in a 1971 game against Baylor in Waco.

The 1970 Tulane team set the table for the best decade ever of Tulane football. Tulane beat LSU in 1973, 1979, 1980 and 1981. Tulane University was playing big-time college football.

That fall, a group of talented players and coaches came together and decided they were trying to accomplish something special. And, they did.

Many underestimated that club, including the Colorado Buffaloes. On a cold day at Liberty Bowl Stadium in Memphis, the Buffaloes were held to 175 yards. Tulane produced one of the greatest wins in the history of the school.

The 1970 Tulane football team is what team sports are supposed to be all about.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

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