Ten things you didn't know about Southeastern Louisiana

Friday, August 31, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — With the 2012 college football season looming mere hours away, the Missouri Tigers are preparing to embark on a lot of new territory.

New conference. New jerseys. New home turf. And probably a new definition of what makes a “successful season.”

The football-crazed Southeastern Conference lies in wait, like the T. rex in "Jurassic Park" waiting patiently to devour the sacrificial goat being lowered slowly into the jungle. It’s a conference chock-full of usual suspects.

You have Alabama, winner of two of the last three national championships; LSU, a perennial power which continues to reload despite losing the Honey Badger, who apparently doesn't care about team rules; Florida, a Will Muschamp-led athlete factory whose most noteworthy player is still, somehow, Tim Tebow; and Arkansas, who landed a motorcycle crash and a mistress short of legitimate title hopes.

Thankfully for the Tigers, Southeastern Louisiana isn’t on that list. The Lions, pride of Hammond, La., play Missouri for the first time on Saturday with expectations about as high as anyone running beside Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash.

Still, as the ’07 Michigan Wolverines can attest, no game can be taken lightly. We at 10 Things prepared as such this week, charging up our laptops and researching with unbridled enthusiasm. And so, we proudly bring you 10 things you didn’t know about Southeastern Louisiana … as if you knew anything before.

10. Southeastern Louisiana University came from humble beginnings, created in 1925 as Hammond Junior College. Its first president was Linus A. Sims, and from 1925-27 the school operated out of two rooms inside Hammond High School.

 9. The college had a cheerleading squad before it had an athletic team. A pep squad was introduced upon the school’s inception in 1925. Because the group didn’t have any Hammond Junior College athletics programs to cheer for, they instead turned their spirit towards Hammond High, attending the high school’s sporting events and displaying some very fake but very loud school spirit.

8. Hammond, the town where Southeastern Louisiana resides, was home to the most prominent Confederate shoe factory during the Civil War. The factory, owned by Charles Emery Cate, shipped nearly 45,000 shoes to Confederate soldiers during the war. It failed to survive, however, as Union soldiers destroyed the factory.

7. In the middle of campus sits a large oak tree, which has been affectionately named “Friendship Oak.” The tree does more than spark friendships, however, as it is said that whoever kisses under the tree is destined to get married.

 6. Southeastern Louisiana is one of the few schools in the country that allows students to rent all of their textbooks, saving them heap-loads of money and eliminating the need for an accordion-playing gorilla that tells you where to sell back your books.

I know what you’re thinking. It came as a shock to me, too. But apparently a college can survive without charging its students five times the retail price for each and every textbook.

Who would've thought?

5. The Lions play their home games at Strawberry Stadium, aptly named because Hammond considers itself the “strawberry capital of the world.”

When it was first built in 1937, Strawberry Stadium also housed a cafeteria, student union, post office and dormitories to go along with the football field. It would be like Missouri playing its games in the MU Student Center.

4. Southeastern Louisiana’s nickname is the Lions, meaning the Lions and Tigers will be going at it on Faurot Field on Saturday. Oh my.

3. Southeastern Louisiana offers two unique traditions for its food-loving faculty and students, “Gumbo Ya Ya” and “Strawberry Jubilee.”

“Gumbo Ya Ya,” a fall pastime, involves more than 3,000 students devouring gumbo, bread, soft drinks and cakes in the school’s Student Union Park. “Strawberry Jubilee,” the spring alternative, also features lots of hungry students and loads of strawberry cake.

2. Hammond is also home to Kliebert’s Turtle & Alligator Farm, home to 47,000 turtles and more than 300 alligators. Families can tour the “Swamp People Trail,” viewing the gators in their natural habitat. There are also a few 55-year-old alligators, which hatched on the farm in 1957.

 1. The mascot – a lion – was previously unnamed before a panel of judges got together, probably had a few drinks, and decided to confuse everybody in 1963. The panel decided to name the lion “Lobo,” which is the Spanish word for “wolf."

Now that clearer heads have prevailed, the lion goes by “Roomie,” a tribute to former Southeastern Louisiana football player and biology professor Hollis “Roomie” Wilson.

Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.

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