by Brandon Cherry
Nicholls State University has long been known for a lack of school spirit, but students and alumni say Colonel Pride is growing with sports teams winning and a national nod for best regional university three years in a row.
“School spirit at Nicholls has really soared since I graduated,” says Wade Rodrigue, who graduated with a degree in English education in 2002. “In my years at Nicholls State spirit was poor. Many students and faculty did not attend sporting events or participate on campus.”
It was not until recently that students on campus began to show their Colonel Pride. Thibodaux resident Timmy Pineville, a former painter at Nicholls State University, remembers when Nicholls had a terrible football team.
“I wouldn’t even go to the football games because it wasn’t worth my time,” says Pineville, who now attends every home game.
The rise in school spirit is driven, in part, by the success of Nicholls athletics and potential academic successes. Many students are finding their school spirit in 2019 because they have something to cheer about.
The recent turnaround started with the hiring of head coach Tim Rebowe before the 2015 season. In his five years of coaching the Colonels’ football team, Rebowe has turned the program from perennial doormat to postseason contender. The team won a Southland Conference title in 2018, the team’s first banner in 13 years.
During the season, the team faces Southeastern Louisiana University in the River Bell Classic, an annual rivalry game where the winner walks away with the River Bell Trophy. Nicholls student Caroline Scorsone says that game brings out the most enthusiasm for both schools.
“I believe we have a lot of school spirit, especially against Southeastern,” Scorsone says.
The rivalry runs deep, as the two teams are tied (14-14) in head-to-head matchups, and they face each other Nov. 21 at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, La.
Like many schools, football seems to draw the most attention and students.
“I believe Nicholls has school spirit but it could be so much more, people recently have been excited for football but not other sports and that should change,” says Nicholls international student Esther Leal.
Like football, women’s basketball also now has a winning record. Under coach DoBee Plaisance, the Lady Colonels finished (20-12) in 2018. This record pushed them to a Southland Conference Tournament title and their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. Although they were eliminated in the first round, their run provided another spark for the Nicholls athletic department.
As the athletics started to see some success, the university itself earned some national recognition. Nicholls was recently named one of the top regional universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report for the third year in a row. Students are given individualized guidance on their career path, resulting in a better success rate.
According to USA Today, the national average retention rate is 44 percent, and Nicholls has a 72 percent retention rate after the second year. After students understand what Nicholls has to offer, they end up finishing their degree at Nicholls.
Many students begin their first semester with the mindset that Nicholls was just an easy and logical choice for college. Nicholls’s enrollment is about 6,500 students compared to the state’s largest university — LSU with more than 32,000 students. Despite the lower number of students at the university, Nicholls aluma Cherish Pitre says the school is a special place.
“I am so glad to have obtained my degree in marketing from Nicholls,” Pitre says. “I will always have Colonel Pride and hold the memories I made at Nicholls close to my heart.”