Orange Watch: Syracuse donors need to keep pace in NIL race

Clemson Football
Syracuse hosts Clemson at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Item: Less than a year after its approval by the NCAA, more than half of the Power 5 conference teams and nine of the 15 ACC schools, have seen the formation of non-school affiliated name, image and likeness (NIL) collectives. That’s the term for a group of donors/fans who provide financial support to ensure the athletes at the school of their allegiance prosper in earning potential from endorsement programs using their name, image and likeness. Syracuse is playing catch-up compared to more than half of its ACC brethren, but is expected to see the formation of its first collective before the start of the upcoming football season.

It’s simply a sign of the times in college athletics, and there’s no turning back. Gone are the days when it is simply about receiving a diploma, having top notch academic support resources to achieve that degree, and practicing and playing in the best facilities.

Now during the recruiting process or when considering a transfer, players and their parents/guardians will be scouring for details about the collectives that are unofficially connected to a school’s specific programs, designed to offer incoming players the opportunity to maximize how much money they can earn while in college, while also giving back to the communities or regions in which they reside.

Even though the NCAA says collectives can’t operate as a pay-for-play model, the lines will remain blurry until a governing body lays the framework of uniform regulations, and it will be an uneven playing field for programs with more resources and wealthy patrons to offer money-making opportunities.

Moving forward, those in charge of creating the collectives are going to like nothing better than sitting high above the action in private suites for football, or in courtside seats for basketball, rooting on the athletes they have helped financially win games for their alma mater or home town school.

According to the Business of College Sports, as of April 22, 2022, here are the 13 current collectives among nine ACC schools:

School Collective Name How It Works
Clemson TigerImpact Provides student athletes with the opportunity to further develop themselves as part of their education, and serve others by providing much needed support to community charities.
Florida State Rising Spear Two options for sponsors and athletes. Gold Standard includes for profit opportunities, and Garnet Spirit, a not-for-profit platform creating opportunities to engage FSU student-athletes through appearance fees, clinics, fundraising, community service projects and events supporting underserved communities.
Florida State Warpath Provides invitations to exclusive events with athletes, including private events, camps and clinics for children, Q&A sessions, limited-run apparel and more as part of a monthly membership.
Florida State Micconope 1851 NIL earning opportunities, and help athletes access successful alumni who can provide educational resources.
Georgia Tech Swarm the ATL Fans can pay monthly fees and in return will receive access to Tech players and other perks. The access could take the form of a meet-and-greet, interaction over a videoconference, dinners or events like a trip to TopGolf. Higher-level subscribers could have benefits like tickets to join suite owners for football games or sit courtside at basketball games.
Miami Bring Back the U Acts as a liaison between players and sponsors to ensure transactions are handled efficiently and in compliance with NCAA regulations. Companies enter into endorsement deals compensating players for content, appearances, etc. Helps businesses identify the right player and campaign for business needs. Hosts events and fundraisers for local businesses for the purpose of those businesses signing deals with players. Solicits and accepts donations to distribute to local businesses which will then directly sponsor players.
North Carolina Heels4Life Focused on football. Membership model or one-time contributions. Also matching student-athletes with alumni in their areas of interest.
Notre Dame Friends of the University of Notre Dame (FUND) Approved as a 501(c)(3) charity. It anticipates working with more than a half-dozen football players in the spring of 2022 as the program begins to launch in full. The board interviews players to determine fit and their charitable interests. Then it matches charities with the players themselves. The players are compensated for appearances and social media posts, while the charity also receives a donation.  
Virginia Cavalier Futures Helps athletes use their name, image, and likeness to be compensated for traditional endorsements, social media promotions, appearances and autographs, in-kind deals, and equity opportunities. Also helps elite student-athletes hire marketing agents and other representatives or service providers to assist them. In addition, an opportunity to further strengthen and support the Charlottesville area and university through community and social activism.
Virginia Tech Hot Route Marketing, LLC Represents a vehicle in which business, donors and fans can invest into a consolidated pool of resources from which NIL opportunities can be arranged for student-athletes.
Virginia Tech Commonwealth NIL Currently active in raising resources for NIL contracts through events, activities and special sales with a unique focus in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Virginia Tech Triumph NIL Seeks to partner corporate clients with student-athletes to build compelling campaigns that drive real results, in addition to offering platforms for donors and fans to support their favorite Hokies.
Wake Forest Top Hat Collective A membership collective of fans, sponsors, and supporters created to help our athletes monetize their Name, Image, and Likeness in a compliant way. Provides opportunities for athletes to connect with members through a variety of methods, including in-person and virtual events, autographs, apparel, NFTs, social media engagement, and more.

So, what will be the name of the first Syracuse collective later this year? We’ll throw out Orange Cuse Collective, and guess that its mission statement will resemble the aforementioned Virginia collective Cavalier Futures model.

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About Brad Bierman 816 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.