The enthusiasm in the North Ridge Country Club ballroom was palpable Wednesday night. NC State’s NIL collective auction was coming to an end, with a large painting of Wolfpack legend Philip Rivers was one of the final items up for sale.
As the bidding soared past $50,000, Pack offensive line coach Garett Tujague was on his feet leading the cheers from a crowd of donors during an unprecedented showing of support for NIL in Raleigh.
An $80,000 bid ended up winning the auction, and Rivers, who made the trip to North Carolina for the event, signed the painting. That was one moment from a collaborative event between the Savage Wolves and Pack of Wolves NIL collectives that, overall, exceeded expectations..
Both organizations formed with the goal of helping NC State compete in the name-image-likeness space, and they decided to work together for a night full of drinks, food and live music by American Idol-winning artist Scotty McCreery and Chandler James.
During the event, Dave Doeren mentioned that he is doing more fundraising these days than ever before. Chris Vurnakes, the general manager of Pack of Wolves, said the Wolfpack head coach laid the groundwork for the celebration.
“This was coach Doeren’s idea,” Vurnakes said. “We talk a lot about how we can fundraise for NIL collectives, and donor fatigue is a real thing. When you’re constantly just asking for donations, there comes a point where that just stops. That’s the natural cycle of it, so I think we knew we had to get more creative.”
For the next few months, Vurnakes, associate Pack of Wolves general manager Hannah Foederer, Pack of Wolves board member Jarrett Disbrow, Savage Wolves founder Tom Livolsi, board member Reid Johnson and many others all worked together to put the night together.
Johnson acknowledged that it is rare to see two collectives work together at one program, and this combined effort yielded some significant success. In total, the event raised $690,950, and Vurnakes said one person who attended the event already reached out to raise his donation by $13,000.
The two collectives assembled an all-star cast of former players, including Pack legends such as Torry Holt and Jerricho Cotchery, and the entire Wolfpack coaching staff to attend the event and spend time with the fans.
“Everything I’ve heard from people last night at the event, even from coaches, to players, to fans, everybody just raved about what a fantastic event it was,” Johnson said. “So now the bar is set at $690,000. That’s the bar, so let’s go.”
Both Vurnakes and Johnson emphasized that education with NIL is extremely important. Events like these give the collectives an opportunity to talk to potential donors about the recent rule changes and explain how they can help the student-athletes.
“They saw the events of last night, and I think we have some credibility coming out of it as a collaborative collective event,” Vurnakes said.
Vurnakes pointed out that support for organizations like an NIL collective tend to follow a “group mentality,” and that support can start to snowball. That was clear during the auction portion of the event where exclusive experiences such as an offshore fishing trip with Doeren or a round of golf with McCreery and former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon sold for large sums of money.
The Wolfpack even auctioned off the opportunity to name one of the Wolfpack’s blitz packages after a donor.
Before the event even started, the collectives sold 17 VIP tables for $10,000, and the opportunity to sit with Rivers went for $25,000. Around 330 people attended the event in total. The fundraising totals exceeded expectations by a significant margin. Johnson said, if they reached $500,00 they would have been happy with the night.
“There was a lot of momentum last night going into that event, and I think there’s going to be a ton of momentum coming out,” Johnson said. “I’m really excited to see how we can help the football program.”
NC State’s donors really delivered an impressive display of support for the Wolfpack Wednesday night, which Johnson said is necessary to maintain a winning program.
“Coach Doeren and his staff have built a top 25 team,” Johnson said. “We want to continue to be a top 25 team. We want to win a championship, and you can’t do that if you’re not in the NIL game, period, end of story.”
Johnson said the event went so well that they plan on making it an annual event. There is a lot of positive momentum going between the two collectives, and they proved with this event that they can work together to help NC State remain extremely relevant in the NIL space.
“From a more analytical standpoint, I think last night propelled us to a point where we are successful,” Vurnakes.