Thousands of students, alumni and fans lined up to catch throws from members of the Tulane football team as they rode the Blaine Kern Mardi Gras World floats to a Celebration Rally on campus on Sunday afternoon.
But the biggest cheers likely came when Coach Willie Fritz called out Alex Bauman, standing among his Green Wave teammates below the stage on the Berger Family Lawn, to get ready for one more pass from quarterback Michael Pratt.
“Now, gosh Dang it, you’ve got to catch this freaking football, right? And there’s going to be no doubt about this being a catch,” Fritz said, laughing.
Catch made, Bauman was swarmed by his teammates, just as he was after the game-winning touchdown catch in Tulane’s dramatic, come-from-behind 46-45 Cotton Bowl win over Southern California on Jan. 2.
Fritz also told the crowd his secret weapon during his preparation of the team for the Cotton Bowl: Payback for a long-ago Rose Bowl defeat at the hands of USC.
“It was really to extract revenge on USC for that 1932 game,” he said. “Our guys were talking about that ’32 game all week while we were preparing for the ball game. They beat us 21-12 and we were so excited to have the opportunity to get those guys back.”
Linebacker Nick Anderson, one of three team captains joining Fritz on the stage, said his most precious moment during the 2022 season was at the end of the American Athletic Conference Championship game, when Tulane beat Central Florida at Yulman Stadium, 45-28, on December 3.
“I’m on my knees at the 30-yard line and I see you guys rushing the field, man,” he told the crowd. “To see all the tears, all the smiles, everybody just crying their eyes out.
“We did it for you guys, so don’t underestimate the role you guys played, the support you gave us all season.”
In addition to the Cotton Bowl win and winning the AAC championship, Tulane ended the season ranked No. 9 in both the final Associated Press and coaches polls.
And Fritz was named the 2022 George Munger College Coach of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club, the 2022 AAC Coach of the Year and the Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year by the Dodd foundation and the Peach Bowl.
Athletic director Troy Dannon highlighted the team’s accomplishments during an unusually stressful four years.
“When they were freshmen, they lost spring ball because of Covid,” they said. “And when they were sophomores, Covid messed with the whole year. Most of these guys had about 500 Covid tests during their sophomore year just to practice and play.
“And then, last year, we thought we were ready to go and that doggone (Hurricane) Ida came,” Dannon said. “Finally, their senior year, their fourth year, a normal year, and look what they did.”
The biggest Catalyst for the turnaround of Tulane football was the decision 14 years ago to build a new Yulman Stadium on campus, said Tulane president Michael Fitts.
“This was truly a Magical season,” they said.
Those attending the celebration, which was delayed a day until Sunday because of rain, were able to take selfies in front of Tulane’s ACC Championship trophy. The Cotton Bowl Trophy has not yet arrived on campus.
This work is supported with a grant funded by the Walton Family Foundation and administered by the Society of Environmental Journalists.