Gold: Latest NIL deal proves just how far behind Pac-12 is falling
As the college football world loses its collective mind over collectives, Pac-12 universities are in danger of falling further and further behind the pack.
The latest news comes out of Lubbock, Texas, population 257,141, known for exactly two things: Buddy Holly and Texas Tech University. On Monday, the Matador Club, an NIL collective made up of Texas Tech donors, announced that it was offering 100 Red Raider football players one-year, $25,000 contracts.
Texas Tech Football players are receiving 1-year, $25,000 renewable NIL deals from the Matador Club, a donor collective.
All 85 scholarship players and 15 of the top walk-ons are eligible.
In return, players are expected to complete local community service. pic.twitter.com/vXJyoRWxSt
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) July 18, 2022
This serves as a $2.5 million commitment from Texas Tech donors, with the Red Raiders coming off a seven-win season for the first time since 2015. That’s a banner year for the Raiders.
“Collectives have done things a number of different ways,” said Cody Campbell, a founding member and board member of the Matador Club, to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “You see some of them paying large amounts to individual players. You see others doing different things. But what we want to do, really, is support the entire program. This is kind of a base salary for the guys. They’re not going to be restricted from doing any other NIL stuff with anybody else. In fact, we’re going to encourage and help them to do that.”
TTU is the sixth-largest major college in Texas, with arguably the sixth-best football program in the state. Arguably. The Red Raiders haven’t won a conference title since 1994, when they went 6-6. They haven’t won 10 games since Mike Leach led them to 11 wins in 2008. Before that, it was another 22 years.
This is not Texas Longhorn donors breaking the bank to reclaim past glory. This isn’t Alabama boosters ponying up for the next crop of future NFL All-Pros. This is middling Texas Tech.
“Donations have ranged from $10 to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve done pretty well and so we’re ready to sign the contracts with the football team,” Campbell told the Avalanche-Journal. “We plan to move forward with (men’s) basketball and baseball in the next weeks, months to come.”
For comparison, the Pac-12’s flagship football program, USC, doesn’t even have a donor collective yet.
Just more than a year after the massive sea-change that saw the NCAA for the first time approve new NIL laws, several Pac-12 have collectives and school-run NIL marketplaces that connect players to boosters – Oregon’s Division Street, in particular, is drawing praise as a “model collective” – but not on a scale like we’re seeing in the SEC, Big Ten and the Big 12.
There is a big difference between offering “opportunities” – which so often get consolidated among only the top skill players, and the stars at that – and offering contracts or dollars.
Granted, some Pac-12 schools – namely the Los Angeles schools, which offer access to the No. 2 media market in the country – have ready-made opportunities in one of the biggest hubs in the world. And, yes, the Ducks get to play with Phil Knight’s money and Nike’s power.
But USC athletic director Mike Bohn sounded a bit naïve last month when the school announced the creation of a third-party agency, BLVD LLC, along with media company Stay Doubted. The agency will facilitate NIL deals on the players’ behalf.
Just to be clear: This is not a donor collective. It is, however, an advancement of USC’s efforts in the NIL sphere. https://t.co/5RD3g9NpEm
— USC Trojans Wire (@TrojansWire) June 16, 2022
In a statement, he implied that the most valuable support that a school can provide is “NIL support resources.”
Tell that to the Red Raider walk-on who just got offered $25,000.
“We have patiently studied the NIL environment both within our program and nationally to inform our decision-making,” Bohn said in a statement at the time. “We believe every student-athlete should have access to NIL support resources and currently only about 3% of our student-athletes have engaged professional service providers. We strive to support our student-athletes in all ways, including in the NIL space.”
Similarly, up in Seattle, the Washington Huskies are touting “value … beyond just the monetary compensation” with their Montlake Futures collective.
A successful day of catching salmon and good vibes! 🎣
Check out the sights and sounds from Saturday’s Dawg Derby!
— Montlake Futures (@montlakefutures) July 19, 2022
“The new goal for us is really creating opportunities that create value for all the participants beyond just the monetary compensation,” Montlake Futures executive director and general manager Emmy Armintrout told the Seattle Times in February. “So for the student-athlete, it’s the fact that the engagement is actually enjoyable and fun and authentic to them, or building a skill, making connections, whatever it is. However we can amplify that, that’s what we are working on.”
The sad reality is, great experiences don’t pay for new cars.
Look, I understand some schools don’t want to make deals with the devil. But the old business adage is it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
This is the Wild West we’re talking about. There’s no time to walk on eggshells. This is the time to come out, wallets blazing.
The rest of the conference, those without built-in advantages, needs to act fast, and with intention.
We’ve seen what happens when the league lags behind the competition. The Pac-12 media rights deal nets its programs scraps compared to their major conference counterparts. That alone helped chase away UCLA and USC, which are set to join the Big Ten in 2024.
If Pac-12 boosters don’t get their acts – and wallets – together, the Red Raiders will look like the Crimson Tide when all is said and done.