top of page

Inside the turnaround that almost didn't happen: From 2-9 to Cotton Bowl Champions

The Tulane football program was almost shuttered twice and endured two hurricanes in the last 20 years.

The Tulane Green Wave upset the USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl 46-45.

Last Monday, Tulane did the improbable, defeating the USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl. Las Vegas gave the Green Wave a shot to win, as just 1.5 points favored the Trojans. Sports books were correct in making the Cotton Bowl a Pick 'em. The Green Wave was a good football team, defeating Big 12 Champion Kansas State.

The Tulane football program spent the bowl season at home after a 2-9 2021 season. The Green Wave struggled in 2021 because they spent much of their season displaced due to Hurricane Ida. Nick Saban and the University of Alabama opened their doors and allowed Tulane to practice in their facility. They also stayed in Birmingham and Tallahassee during that time.

Many young men on the team, either New Orleans or Louisiana natives, lost nearly everything in the hurricane, which caused 55 billion dollars in damage to the state.

Suffice it to say the Green Wave was not expected to do much.

Tulane Football is no stranger to adversity.

Twenty years ago, there was an attempt to shutter the football program or demote the program to Division III. The Green Wave finished 8-5 that season and did not have a winning season until 2013. One of the reasons for their struggles was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the second time the team was displaced.

The Green Wave found themselves picking up the pieces after 2005, just as they did in 2021. Tulane was fresh off of a great 2020, winning six games and making its third bowl appearance in a row -- a first in school history -- and looking forward to playing Oklahoma in the season opener.

Hurricane Ida came, and the Tulane football program was in Birmingham, Alabama. "They told us to pack for three days," says quarterback Michael Pratt. "It was a crappy situation. But you have two options: Let it carry over or bounce back."

The Green Wave bounced back.

Tulane returned this season with an experienced football team that won the AAC and found themselves in the Cotton Bowl. It would have been easy to dismiss them as the inferior football team because they are a small school from New Orleans and could not compete with mighty USC.

Just like they did both times the school attempted to shut the program and endured two hurricanes, the Green Wave proved they are tough, like the angry wave on their helmet.


bottom of page