NC State Booster Club, NIL Collective Riding Final Four Gravy Train

At Yard House, a sports bar near Washington, D.C.’s Capital One Arena, NC State’s booster club hosted a small group of diehard fans, season ticket holders and donors ahead of the men’s basketball team’s opening-round game in the ACC tournament.

It’s no surprise the Wolfpack’s Tuesday donor party in D.C. was sparse. After all, the 14-loss team stumbled into the postseason with head coach Kevin Keatts on the proverbial hot seat trying to motivate a squad that hadn’t won the conference tournament since 1987.

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By that weekend, when NC State was in the midst of an five-wins-in-five-days run through the ACC Tournament that would secure it an improbable NCAA Tournament bid, those same donor functions swelled to thousands in attendance.

“It took a couple wins in the ACC tournament before our fan base started believing something special was happening,” Wolfpack Club executive director Ben Broussard said in an interview. “But after the third game, they were in. I didn’t hear doubt or negativity from hardly anybody. Our athletic director [Boo Corrigan] always says ‘constant positivity,’ and at that point in time, it was working with everyone pushing same direction.”

That momentum has carried on, with the ACC champions reaching the Final Four for the program’s first time since the Jim Valvano-led Wolfpack won it all in 1983. The men are joined by the women’s basketball team, which is also competing for a spot in the national championship Friday night. The school’s historic runs have boosted fundraising campaigns around its athletics program.

“This is the kind of thing where people you wish would answer your phone call are suddenly now calling you,” Broussard said.

With help from the Final Four double dip, the Wolfpack are on pace to finish the year with record highs in total number of donors and donations to the annual fund, which pays student athlete scholarships.

The booster club has also reeled in “several hundred thousand dollars” over the last few weeks, according to Broussard, who says the gifts can’t definitively be attributed to the March success but the new “warm and fuzzes probably got them across the edge.”

While economic impact has been tangible, the school’s fundraising staff is trying to capitalize on the moment as it continues to deploy donor functions in both Phoenix (the location of the men’s Final Four) and Cleveland (the location of the women’s Final Four). The increased hospitality expenses weren’t included in the initial postseason budget, but they believe it’s more than worth it to adjust. There may not be a better time to rally your best donors and prospective givers.

“It’s worth every penny to get those people together in a happy and exciting [way],” Broussard said. “Those are the kind of moments you live for in college athletics.”

These are also the moments that NIL collective leaders dream about. Just ask Chris Vurnakes, who runs 1PACK, a two-year-old organization which serves college athletes at NC State. The general manager says the collective is experiencing all-time levels of investment and participation as membership support has been up nearly 50% in the past three weeks.

“It’s exactly what we needed,” he said. “We need that support from people who are buying season tickets and going to all the games. We need them to buy into NIL, even if it’s just $10 a month. All those dollars add up.”

The Pack’s collective and the school’s booster club have synergies, but NCAA policy blocks the two entities from collaborating on specific initiatives, including fundraising efforts. But the school is an advocate given the importance of NIL, and this recent success of both basketball teams fuels the school’s fundraising needs as well as the student-athletes and the future of the programs.

“It’s just brought so many more people into the conversation,” Vurnakes said. “Now that we’ve had a taste of winning a championship, we’re going to want to continue to do that… People are willing to put their money up to stay competitive in a competitive landscape.”

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