Ever wonder what it’s like to wear an LSU backpack on Louisiana Tech’s campus? 

My buddy Josh Welch lived that experience while attending Louisiana Tech as a student. And yeah, he got some responses you might expect. How about the clean version?  

“Why didn’t you go to LSU then?” “Why are you wearing that (junk) on campus?” 

While I believe his backpack apparel in some ways crosses a line — picture a fellow classmate donning LSU memorabilia in a Louisiana Tech classroom — I don’t believe my friend is in anyway disloyal for being an LSU fan. 

I couldn’t help but recall that story in the last month, though. After hearing from several Louisiana Tech fans in the past about their dislike for LSU and fans in Northeast Louisiana who support the Tigers, I’ve often thought about the proper etiquette for students and fans alike who attend a different university. And I’ll be blunt — I vehemently disagree with takes suggesting you should drop your loyalties on a dime when you attend a certain school. Because fandom doesn’t’ work that way. 

And my buddy is the perfect example. Since I’m putting my comrade on blast here, I figured I’d give him the opportunity to explain why he wore an LSU backpack on Tech’s campus during his time there, or better yet, let him explain why he felt it was OK to be an LSU fan while attending Louisiana Tech as a student. 

“Because you go to college for an education,” Welch said. “Your rooting interests are formed the time you’re a kid watching sports. It would be incredibly weird/dumb to not root for the team you’ve always rooted for because you didn’t end up going to that college. In my situation, I had many friends going to Tech, had a full-ride and my brother was renting a house there and had a room available. So it made sense to go and avoid dorm life when I only knew one person going to LSU.” 

Sounds reasonable enough, no? 

Just the other day I felt the need to share my opinion on the subject, as I kept seeing the same tweets over and over from diehard Louisiana Tech fans condemning fellow students for rooting on the Tigers in the national championship game.

I tweeted the following, “You don’t become a fan when you’re 18. Most of us lived and died by our teams’ wins and losses when we were 10, when sports mattered more than everything else in life. Can’t turn that passion off because of a college choice.”

A former colleague challenged me on this issue. Bret McCormick, who used to write for The Town Talk in Alexandria and is a hardcore Louisiana Tech fan, respectfully tweeted back at me saying he would never understand how I could root for a school I never attended. 

And my response to that pointed out the fact that there were several reasons that impacted my decision to go to Nicholls State. Sure, I wanted to attend the college I rooted for all my life, but life threw me a curveball. 

Now don’t get me wrong — I love my school. I’m thankful for how small it was and how it allotted one-on-one time with professors who helped me develop my craft so I could one day write and talk about sports for a living. That might not have happened as swiftly if not for Nicholls, and I’m forever grateful. But four years at a university cannot supplant a lifelong passion built on the foundation of a father-son relationship. I think many can identify with that as most of us are drawn to our team by geography and the passion of our parents and grandparents.

Rooting for LSU when I attended Nicholls also didn’t affect Nicholls. I can’t hold Nicholls to the same standard as LSU in athletics. It’s simply unrealistic, as both schools have entirely different goals. 

And this might be the most controversial thing written in this entire column — Tech nor ULM fans can hold their athletic programs to the same standards at LSU. Otherwise you’ll always be disappointed, and not because the athletic programs are inferior. Look at the year Louisiana Tech just had in football as an example. Let’s play with some hypotheticals here. What if certain players weren’t suspended for two crucial conference games and Tech finds a way to win those two contests and the Conference-USA Championship Game. Maybe, just maybe, the Bulldogs become the highest ranked Group of Five and get to play Penn State in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Or let’s say Tech defeated Texas and ran the gauntlet undefeated. Are the Bulldogs making the playoffs in the current format?

UCF went undefeated in 2017, claimed a national title and then went undefeated again in the 2018 regular season and still didn’t even come close to sniffing the College Football Playoff. Fair or not, that’s how college football works. 

So, in theory, it’s impossible to hold Louisiana Tech, ULM or any other Group of Five school to the same standards as a Power Five school that’s always going to be given the benefit of the doubt in these rankings. 

And because of that, I think it’s just fine to root for your school and root for LSU if you grew up a diehard fan. Support your school. I beg you. But also understand that for diehard fans, like myself, you simply can’t turn off lifelong fandom.  

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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