OPINION | Is Tulane football’s recent popularity bandwagoning?

Rachel Kelly and Phoebe Hurwitz

(Merrie Afseth)

Louisiana residents overwhelmingly support the LSU Tigers football team whereas other states see more of a competition for fan loyalty. This interactive map breaks down college football support in Louisiana by zip code based on ticket sales on Vivid Seats from the past two seasons. 

Tulane has the second-highest showing of any school on the map, seen in the top spot in eight zip codes in Orleans Parish and the surrounding area. However, this does not compare to the “sea of purple” in the majority of the state. 

Focusing on New Orleans alone, 75% of residents are Saints fans. Saints fans rank third as the most passionate football fans, only after the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots. Between LSU and the Saints, Tulane students and New Orleans residents are not short on football teams to support. 

In the past year, however, Tulane’s football team has seen drastic improvement. As a result, many Tulane students may have adjusted their status as sports fans, making room for a new favorite.

In the 2021 season, the Tulane football team won just two of their 12 games. This year, the same team has won eight of their nine games. As the football team began to rack up wins this season, the student section at Yulman Stadium has become increasingly full. 

What drives the devotion of sports fans to a particular team? Is it local, regional or school pride? Is it love and loyalty to one’s own team? Or is it simply the thrill of a team dominating its opponents? 

Students may be attracted to Tulane for a variety of its outstanding statistics. Ranked No. 1 for happiest students and No. 2 for students most engaged in community service, many students come to Tulane to engage with the culture of New Orleans. Ranking 16 in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 24 years, Tulane’s football culture has been evidently less of a draw. 

Yet, this slight shift in the team’s performance — which seems to have been struggling for decades — was enough to spur excitement in otherwise dormant Tulane football fans.

Although a winning team certainly improves fan turnout, Tulane students haven’t always shown support even when the team is prevailing. In 1998, Tulane went undefeated, but fan turnout was weak because they played in the Superdome rather than on campus. The 20-minute commute from campus was enough to stifle turnout even when the team was doing well.

It’s not that Tulane students necessarily lack school pride or loyalty, rather, it boils down to the fact that people want to support a successful team. And, situated amongst fervent LSU and Saints fans, Tulane football was never able to compete for the fanbase. 

Now that Tulane’s performance has taken a turn for the better, Tulane students who are not native to Louisiana may feel more of an affiliation toward the Green Wave. 

The support that the football team has received in response to their improved play may be attributed to the proximity of the stadium, or perhaps some will call it bandwagoning — but, if the turnout this season ensures anything, it’s that this Saturday will be a fun home game! 

Leave a Comment