If college athletes can earn NIL money from the schools, what becomes of donor-backed collectives?

FILE - Incoming NCAA president Charlie Baker speaks during the NCAA Convention, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in San Antonio. Baker wants to create a new tier of Division I where athlete can be paid by schools. The new subdivision for schools with the most athletic resources could offer unlimited educational benefits, enter into name, image and likeness partnerships with athletes and compensate them through a trust fund (AP Photo/Darren Abate, File)

Donor-fueled collectives that raise money and funnel it to college athletes through name, image and likeness opportunities they facilitate probably won’t go away entirely if NCAA President Charlie Baker’s proposals for paying athletes become reality. But changes will be inevitable.

Baker has recommended that Division I schools be allowed to enter into licensing deals directly with their athletes, essentially paying them to be school ambassadors. He suggested that the wealthiest schools be required to pay half of their athletes at least $30,000 per year. For a school like Texas, with some 700 athletes, that would be a sum of some $10 million.


Collectives, technically operating independently from the schools they serve, have sprung up across the country since the NCAA began allowing athletes to make money off their celebrity two years ago. The collectives — some 200 of them — seek donations from boosters, alumni and fans and then arrange opportunities for athletes to be paid for endorsements, public appearances, autograph-signing and posting branded content to their personal social media channels.

Experts said the collectives could be absorbed into athletic departments to provide some of the same services they do now or they could continue operating independently.

Jason Belzer, founder of Student Athlete NIL, which operates several commercial collectives for schools across the country, said fund-raising by outside collectives would be unnecessary if athlete-targeted donations were allowed to be made directly to the school.

Corey Staniscia, director of the Fowler Ave Collective that backs USF athletics, said he would “welcome the day” when NIL work can be done through schools themselves.

“Allow the institutions to contract with athletes even just for their rights of publicity to directly sell merch, co branded billboards and bobble heads for fans,” Staniscia posted on X. “That really isn’t moving mountains here. It’s not too difficult.”

Opendorse CEO Blake Lawrence, whose company partners with schools to help initiate, track and monitor NIL deals, said there will be a place for collectives in the environment proposed by Baker.

“Third-party compensation for NIL activities that are not controlled by the institution will exist,” Lawrence said. “It will be very hard to remove that element. I think there may be less pressure on the collectives in terms of how much they’re tasked with sourcing for athletes and their third-party payments. But they do not go away.”

Athletes.org co-founder Jim Cavale, whose organization seeks to give athletes a voice in plotting the future of college sports and an NIL pioneer as developer of the platform INFLCR, said collectives could be folded into the athletic departments not so much for fund-raising but instead to activate and service NIL deals.

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