Mardi Gras season is underway in New Orleans, but the Tulane Football Green Wave got the party started early.
Tulane wrapped up a historic season with an impressive 11-2 record, a conference championship, and a thrilling come-from-behind Cotton Bowl victory against powerhouse USC. The program, which has much fewer financial resources than Power 5 programs, was the only Group of 5 school to make a New Year’s Six appearance this year.
The season and the desire to ensure top talent remains in fertile New Orleans in the future fueled a major increase in donations to Tulane NIL collective “Fear The Wave,” co-founder and Tulane alumnus Kelly Comarda told Front Office Sports.
“Fear The Wave” is an early example of how collectives at Group of 5 schools can help their programs compete with Power 5 counterparts — even if their pockets aren’t as deep.
- At the beginning of the football season, the collective had only amassed about $100,000, Comarda said.
- But by the time fans had returned from Cotton Bowl celebrations, funds “more than quadrupled” — suggesting it amassed more than $400,000 to pay players.
- The collective received almost 70 donations just in November and December alone.
- The football program’s success has sparked funds for men’s and women’s basketball and baseball.
Comarda noted that the spike occurred around the time Tulane qualified for the American Athletic Conference title game with a victory over Cincinnati — and news broke that coach Willie Fritz had been approached for the head coaching position at Georgia Tech.
The collective launched in January as a nonprofit that awards deals to athletes in exchange for completing charity work. It’s offered deals to every football and basketball player, as well as “several” baseball players and one women’s tennis player so far.
In the next six months, Comarda hopes news of the collective can circulate among as many fans as possible, particularly given the renewed interest in Tulane sports.
In the past, Comarda said, “we had an ability to capitalize on some success, and we failed to capture that momentum. I think there’s a real sense of urgency among the Tulane fans and the Tulane administration to capitalize on this.”
Part of that momentum is ensuring the team doesn’t lose top players. The Fear The Wave collective sees itself as a defense mechanism against more prosperous programs’ promises and the collectives that support them.
And even though coaches don’t get NIL deals from collectives, a robust NIL marketplace surrounding a school could influence where a coach decides to take a job. Almost losing Fritz galvanized donors into action, Comarda said.
Instead of getting Mardi Gras throws, the Green Wave program is getting dollars thrown at them to help the Green Wave retain its talent.
“Seeing how Power 5 schools are raiding Group of 5 rosters, it became that much more important for us to build up our collective,” Comarda said.
“Fear The Wave” won’t try to entice future recruits, given NCAA rules. But it will ensure current players are taken care of.
“We want to put all of our resources toward guys that are proven commodities and use it as a reward for guys who are doing the right thing the right way.”
In the meantime, Fritz will enjoy bringing more exposure to the program as he will serve as grand marshal of Krewe of Endymion’s 2023 Mardi Gras parade. And his team will ride the 21-float Krewe of Freret parade.