In recent months, the collectives have been portrayed as the outrageous side of the NIL.
There have been reports of million dollar deals being used as recruiting inducements and rumors of bidding wars. They have drawn the ire of Nick Saban and countless other college sports officials, who believe they could ruin the future of college sports by making it easier to pay for the game.
But athletes and industry pundits told Front Office Sports that currently collectives are far less powerful than the headlines suggest. And instead of “ruining” college sports, collectives could be an effective and lucrative resource for athletes — and hardly a dark underbelly of college sports.
The current landscape
Typically, NIL collectives are groups of donors, alumni, boosters, and local businesses who pool their resources to provide NIL opportunities for athletes of a certain school. Some provide deals using their own businesses, while others act as agencies, facilitating opportunities for athletes.
There are more than 60 active collectives, according to Business of College Sports. A few, like Oregon’s Division Street or Tennessee’s Spyre Sports collective, are well-funded and active. Those who offer six, seven or even eight-figure offers are also very much in the minority.
But, Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence told FOS that according to his data, media coverage around the collectives has made their impact look bigger than it is. “There’s a big gap between the collectives that have gotten the hang of it…and those that create a lot of buzz through ads, but don’t actually do much.”
Front Office Sports spoke to athletes who all believe collectives are currently benefiting athletes – and can continue to do so in the future.
In that first year of the Name, Image and Likeness era, NC State offensive lineman Tim McCay made all of his trades through a NIL collective called the Pack of Wolves. He was the first athlete to sign with the group and says his experience so far has been positive.
“They’ve really helped me connect with donors and alumni,” he told Front Office Sports at the first-ever NIL Summit in Atlanta earlier this month. McCay is now a band ambassador and helps develop NFT.
NIL trailblazer and former Rutgers goaltender Geo Baker thinks his alma mater’s collective is working well. The Knights of Raritan are focused on finding deals for current athletes, he said, rather than trying to enter the recruiting landscape.
But he noted that at other schools, deals that could be considered recruitment inducements are just deals that likely would have gone under the table anyway.
Experts agree that collectives are not going away. Over the next few years, the big questions are how much they will influence recruiting and how much they will actually benefit athletes.
With updated guidelines in May, the NCAA itself attempted to exclude collectives from recruiting altogether:
The policy stated that boosters were not allowed to communicate with potential recruits at all, including about NIL deals. Coaches are also not allowed to promise offers.
At some point, multiple legal experts predict the NCAA will attempt to punish a collective — potentially further clarifying the rules for the rest.
But the NCAA has so far failed to kick the collectives out of recruiting. And even if the rules become stricter, collectives can still have a direct influence.
How? Kennyhertz Perry’s attorney, Mit Winter, predicted that in the years to come, the collectives will develop a reputation – and won’t have to talk to recruits at all. Coaches “can say, yeah, look here, we’ve got this collective, and here are some historic deals they’ve made with guys on our team, and here’s the range of those deals.”
The success of athlete collectives may also depend on who leads the collective. Are they following the rules? Do they offer fair contracts?
Mike Hamilton, executive vice president of Learfield’s University Partnership Group – and former Tennessee athletic director – added another major piece to the collective puzzle: “How will ROI be defined?”
If a donor makes a major deal to an athlete who ends up not playing well, will that donor think twice about making a NIL deal in the future? Hamilton believes that over time the market will “correct itself”.
The crux of the collective problem is that he created a transparent way for boosters to pay athletes — something the NCAA has always considered taboo. But eventually, schools will have to deal with a problem they can no longer prevent.
Read the original article on FrontOfficeSports.com.
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