LA Tech Traditions
Part of the First-Year Experience, Academic Convocation is a combination of welcome, challenge and promise held annually in the Quad on the evening before the freshmen's first fall quarter classes begin. The freshman class circles the Lady of the Mist and "deposit" special Medallions, symbolically investing in their future. At their graduation, each of those students receives a Medallion engraved with their graduation year, a tangible keepsake of persistence and a reminder that Tech and its Tenets go with you always.
Legend of the Bulldog
The story takes place in the autumn of 1899 when five Tech students were returning home from school. They came upon an old, hungry bulldog sitting under a tree. The boys fed the dog with what food they had and continued their journey.
When they finally reached their destination, however, they found that the dog had followed them. Being sensitive young men, they sought permission for the dog to stay the night, and the landlord agreed - if the animal remained in the kitchen.
That night the house caught fire.
Their overnight guest was the first to awaken. The dog ran from room to room, rousing everyone in the building. Then, after all the other occupants had made their way to safety, one boy remained inside. The bulldog re-entered the smoke-filled house in an apparent attempt to rescue him, not realizing the boy had escaped in a different direction.
After the fire was extinguished and smoke had finally cleared, the boys went inside to see if the dog had indeed made it out to safety. But when they entered, they found the lifeless bulldog lying in an unburned corner of one room. He had died from the smoke and the heat.
Naturally, the young men were shaken due to the death of their new friend. So they picked him up and carried him to the place they had found him the previous day. They then dug a grave and wrapped him in two jackets - one red and the other blue.
When the boys returned to school and related their story, the whole campus mourned the death of the homeless dog. The dog with no name had found a place in the hearts of Tech students.
Two years later, Tech organized a football team and decided the team needed not only school colors, but a mascot. A unanimous decision was reached as the bulldog, the first hero of Tech, was given the honor.
Spirit of 88
For more than two and a half decades, a bronze Bulldog statue named the Spirit of '88 stood at the south end of Joe Aillet stadium directly behind the goal posts, commemorating the 1988 Bulldog football team which blazed the path into Division I-A football for Louisiana Tech.
However, with the construction of the Davison Athletics Complex which opened in late August 2015, the Spirit of '88 moved directly inside the doors of the hallway that lead from the Bulldog locker room onto the Joe Aillet Stadium playing surface in the southwest corner of the facility.
The statue, which every Bulldog football player touches as he walks onto the field prior to each home game, is symbolic of the challenges that the 1988 team endured, competing against one of the most difficult schedules in school history while playing with only 65 scholarships - the allotted amount for Division I-AA teams. In what was the nation's 11th toughest schedule that year, the Bulldogs faced five I-A bowl teams including Houston, Florida State and Texas A&M.
The results were as expected: losses like 60-0, 56-17 and 66-3 ... but as a team, the Bulldogs grew. Those experiences likely played a key role in Tech finishing 5-4-1 the following year, its first in Division I-A, and then 8-3-1 in 1990 and an Independence Bowl berth.
The statue has also brought good fortune to the Bulldogs at home. On Oct. 14, 1989, when it was unveiled, Tech proceeded to pummel a highly respected Northern Illinois team by the score of 42-21. That was just the start of one of the best home runs in Tech football history.
Over the next four-plus seasons, home games were few and far between, but each one resulted in a win. The Bulldogs eventually reeled off 18 consecutive home victories, tying the all-time stadium record set by head coach Maxie Lambright's great teams of the early 1970s.
Some wins have been more magical than others. The endings to three of the biggest wins in school history have taken place in the south end zone ... almost as if the
Spirit of '88 willed the Bulldogs to victory.
In 1990, only Louisiana Tech's second season in the Division I-A ranks, the Bulldogs trailed Colorado State 30-14 late in the third quarter and their bowl hopes looked bleak. However, 17 unanswered points later, Tech had rallied for a 31-30 win over the bowl-bound Rams to earn their own Independence Bowl berth. The winning touchdown pass from Gene Johnson to Bobby Slaughter in the final minutes came fittingly in the south end zone, just in front of the Spirit of '88.
Eleven years later, Tech clinched a share of its first Western Athletic Conference title with a 48-42 win over Boise State at Joe Aillet Stadium. With the Broncosdriving towards what appeared to be the game-winning score late in the contest, the Spirit of '88 magic struck once again.
Boise State quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie's potential game-winning touchdown pass bounced off the helmet of a Tech defender and high into the air before Bulldog defensive lineman Brandon Avance intercepted it, giving Tech the victory.
Some might say it's a coincidence that the two biggest wins in the program's Division I-A history had been decided in the south end zone under the watchful eyes of the Spirit of '88.
However, the third time proved it was more than just chance.
On a warm Oct. 2 evening in 2004, Louisiana Tech found itself trailing No. 17 ranked Fresno State 21-20 late in the fourth quarter. Fresno State had the football and the momentum, trying to move out of its own end zone -- the south end zone -- against a Tech defense and its 12th man, or should we say Dog.
However, under the watchful eyes of the Spirit of '88, the Tech defense and offense would both strike. On third down linebacker Byron Santiago intercepted Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar and returned the football to the 16-yard line.
Two plays later, Ryan Moats gave Tech a 28-21 lead and the eventual win rushing eight yards to the right corner of the south end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game.
The Bulldogs would defeat the 17th-ranked team in the nation. A Joe Aillet Stadium crowd celebrated wildly with the Tech players, coaches and the Spirit of '88. Some may say the powers of that bronze Bulldog are a fluke. Tech fans won't agree. The numbers say 59 wins and just 20 losses since the Spirit of '88 was unveiled.
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