• Loading stock data...
Sunday, April 21, 2024
  • -
    days
  • -
    hours
  • -
    minutes
  • -
    seconds

One Year of NIL: Controversial Collectives Aren’t Going Away

  • NIL collectives have dominated media headlines in the first year of the NIL era.
  • Right now, they may be less impactful than expected — but experts think their future is bright.
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past several months, collectives have been framed as the scandalous side of NIL. 

There have been reports of million-dollar deals being used as recruiting inducements and rumors of bidding wars. They’ve drawn the ire of Nick Saban and countless other college sports officials, who think they could ruin the future of college sports by facilitating pay for play.

But athletes and industry experts told Front Office Sports that currently, collectives are much less powerful than the headlines would suggest. And instead of “ruining” college sports, collectives could be an efficient and lucrative resource for athletes — and hardly a dark underbelly of college sports.

The Current Landscape

Generally, NIL collectives are groups of donors, alumni, boosters, and local businesses who pool resources to provide NIL opportunities for athletes at a certain school. Some are providing deals using their own businesses, while others are acting 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. The ones offering six, seven, or even eight-figure deals are also in the vast minority. 

But, Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence told FOS that according to his data, the media coverage around collectives has made their impact seem larger than it is. “There’s a big gap between the collectives that have figured it out…and those that are creating a lot of buzz through announcements, but aren’t doing much in reality.”

Positive Cases

Front Office Sports spoke with athletes who all believe collectives are currently benefiting athletes — and can continue to do so in the future.

Over this first year of the name, image, and likeness era, NC State offensive lineman Tim McCay has done all of his deals through an NIL collective called the “Pack of Wolves.” He was the first athlete to sign with the group, and he 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 an ambassador for the group and is helping with some NFT development.

NIL trailblazer and former Rutgers guard Geo Baker thinks his alma mater’s collective is working well. The Knights of Raritan is focused on procuring deals for current athletes, he said, rather than trying to get into the recruiting landscape.

But he noted that at other schools, the deals that could be considered recruiting inducements are just deals that probably would’ve been under the table anyway. 

The Future Factors

Experts agree that collectives aren’t going away. In the next few years, the big questions are how much they’ll influence recruiting, and how much they’ll actually benefit athletes.

With updated guidance in May, the NCAA itself tried to push collectives out of recruiting altogether: 

  • The policy said that boosters were not allowed to communicate with potential recruits at all — including about NIL deals. Coaches aren’t allowed to promise deals, either. 
  • At some point, multiple legal experts predict that the NCAA will attempt to punish a collective — potentially further clarifying the rules for the rest.

But the NCAA hasn’t been successful so far at kicking collectives out of recruiting. And even if the rules get stricter, collectives can still have an above-board influence. 

How? Kennyhertz Perry attorney Mit Winter predicted that in coming years, collectives will develop reputations — and won’t have to talk to recruits at all. Coaches “can say, yeah, look over here at this, we have this collective, and here are some historical deals that they have done with guys on our team, and here are the range of those deals.”

The success of collectives for athletes could also depend on who is running the collective. Are they following the rules? Are they offering fair contracts?

Mike Hamilton, executive vice president of the university partnership group at Learfield — and former Tennessee athletic director — added another major piece to the collective puzzle: “How will the return on investment be defined?”

If a donor offers a major deal to an athlete who doesn’t end up playing well, will that donor think twice about doing an NIL deal in the future? Hamilton believes that over time, the market will “self-correct.”

The crux of the collective issue is that it’s created an above-board way for boosters to pay athletes — something the NCAA has always considered taboo. But finally, schools will have to grapple with an issue they can no longer prevent.

Linkedin
Whatsapp
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

Everything You Need To Know About the Legal Attempts To Kill the ACC

Four lawsuits involving the conference, Clemson, and FSU could determine the future.

A Bare-Knuckle Fighter Won His Pro Debut. The Far Right Scored a Marketing Win

With Proud Boys sponsoring him, experts say extremist groups will use his success to elevate their ideologies and recruit new believers.
Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Kyron Hudson (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Louisville Cardinals during the first half at Petco Park.

Hearings Have Concluded in the Pivotal USC Athlete Employment Case. What’s Next?

The potentially landmark labor case could end the NCAA amateurism model.

Players Accused of Sexual Misconduct Can Still Compete, Feds Say

New Title IX rules ban suspending accused athletes until a school investigation occurs.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Why Ian Rapoport Lives for the NFL Draft’s Chaos

0:00
0:00

Featured Today

Women’s Basketball Finally Has a TV Deal to Match the Excitement. Now What?

A lucrative new media-rights contract could rectify problems of the past, but the future of March Madness media rights is anyone’s guess.
Mar 16, 2024; Washington, D.C., USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack forward DJ Burns Jr. (30) cuts the net after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels for the ACC Conference Championship at Capital One Arena.
April 6, 2024

How Two College Seniors Helped DJ Burns Cash In on a Final Four Run

Two college seniors are facilitating deals for NC State’s big man.
Mar 31, 2024; Portland, OR, USA; NCAA officials measure the three point line while coaches from the Texas Longhorns and NC State Wolfpack watch with referees in the finals of the Portland Regional of the NCAA Tournament at the Moda Center center.
April 1, 2024

NCAA Has No One to Blame for Latest Women’s March Madness Transgressions

NCAA is still making avoidable mistakes three years after a complete overhaul.
Nov 16, 2015; Bloomington, IN, USA; General view of the championship banners at Assembly Hall prior to the game between Austin Peay and Indiana.
March 31, 2024

How to Make It in Basketball: Become a Manager at Indiana

Inside the Hoosiers’ unglamorous, profoundly rewarding incubator for basketball’s biggest names.

Careers

Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Live Nation
Multiple - USA Careers
Adidas
Multiple - USA Careers
FanDuel
Multiple - USA Careers

Memphis and FedEx Strike Unique Corporate NIL Deal For $25 Million

The logistics company has a long-standing relationship with the university.
April 11, 2024

‘Nothing Is Off the Table’: New AAC Commissioner Isn’t Afraid of the Controversial Ideas

Tim Pernetti told reporters he’s specifically interested in private equity—and didn’t rule out athlete employment or unionization models.
April 17, 2024

NCAA Made Empty Threats to Jim Harbaugh over Lawyer’s Twitter Posts

The attorney kept criticizing the NCAA on social media after the October warning.
Sponsored

Rapid Returns: How Technology Is Getting You Back to Your Seat

How Oracle’s POS technology is helping fans get back to their seats faster.
April 10, 2024

Deion Sanders: NFL Teams Manipulate Draft Positions

Coach Prime joined ‘Front Office Sports Today’ to discuss the state of college football.
April 10, 2024

Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer Retires With ACC Move Looming

She set the all-time coaching record with 1,216 wins.
April 9, 2024

John Calipari’s Kentucky Exit Is As Slow and Awkward As a Dog in a Stroller

Calipari steps away from Kentucky with the Arkansas deal still unofficial.
April 9, 2024

Simultaneous Final Fours: An Untenable Logistical Conundrum

The women’s Final Four has gotten much too big to take place at the exact same time—in a different location—as its men’s counterpart.