Two things in the last few years have completely changed the landscape of college athletics. The first—realignment—started more than a decade ago when Missouri and Colorado left the Big 12, to be followed by Texas A&M. It is still churning the waters today with reports that the B1G is “targeting” or “eyeing” more Pac12 schools in moves that would obviously also influence basically every other conference like a game of musical chairs. More on that, hopefully, will break in the coming days or weeks.
The second is NIL, which stands for name, image, and likeness. Up until recently, collegiate athletes were (for the most part) prohibited from profiting individually based on their participation in their sports. They could not, for example, do car commercials or endorse products and be compensated for it, because the mere idea that individuals with valuable skills and talents could leverage those into value for themselves violated fundamental concepts of “amateurism,” (nevermind that it has, without a doubt, always happened). Only the NCAA itself, schools, and coaches were allowed to profit enormously.*
*And don’t bring any of that “what about the scholarship????” stuff in here. I’m talking dollar bills, y’all.
Then, on June 30, 2021, everything changed when the NCAA adopted new rules allowing athletes to benefit from NIL. Lawyers sprang into action across the country to interpret and push the limits of the new rules both for the benefit of the athletes themselves and the schools, which were (as I understand it) still prohibited from directly paying players, even under the guise of NIL, or negotiating on their behalf. Thus, “collectives” were born—groups not directly affiliated with the school itself but were nevertheless organized for its benefit. Basically vehicles for pooling money to pay athletes, these collectives have spread like wildfire over the last year—according to On3, 92% of the Power 5 has an associated collective, including all 14 schools currently in the SEC (and the two schools about to join them). Texas Tech’s NIL collective—The Matador Club—recently made headlines by pledging to pay every scholarship football player and the top 15 walk-ons (for a total of 100 players) $25,000 each per year, a yearly investment of $2.5 million. We are not in Kansas anymore, although both Kansas schools in the Big 12 also have collectives.
Until today, Baylor did not have a collective or really anything similar, making us one of the highest profile schools seriously behind the times on this issue in that we relied almost entirely on individual athletes making opportunities for themselves, at least openly. That changed today in two major ways. The first is the announcement by Startup Waco of the creation of “GxG Exchange,” which I am slightly hesitant to describe as a true “collective” but is certainly closer than anything we had before.
#Baylor, one of the last schools in the P5 not to have an NIL collective, now has something similar.— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) July 27, 2022
Startup Waco, an established non-profit, has launched GXG Exchange to connect BU athletes with NIL ventures by working with brands, donors, etc.
More - https://t.co/ZVrqAWmrym
It is not exactly clear how this will work, but from what has been written so far it seems like the Diet Coke of NIL collectives—an outside entity that will act as a middleman for NIL opportunities rather than a direct payor (like what Texas Tech is doing) but that could morph quickly into a full-blown collective if the support is there from our fanbase and boosters (because, let’s not kid ourselves, that’s who all this is really about from the giving side). Unlike others around the state, Startup Waco is undoubtedly a legitimate non-profit organization in the Waco area, so it is an interesting direction for them to move in addition to the things they already do.
Not to be outdone, a few minutes after the news broke about the GxG Exchange, Baylor itself announced its own “NIL marketplace” in a partnership with Opendorse.
According to the release, using the Opendorse app, “all student-athletes can review and accept NIL deals, receive payments, disclose activities for compliance and auto-generate necessary tax documentation.” Essentially, the marketplace will form the bridge between Baylor athletes and sponsors and other parties interested in making NIL deals. Seems like a logical move to me.
Time will tell how all of this will play out in terms of Baylor becoming and staying competitive in the NIL marketplace, a concern that I and many others have had for more than a year now. And while these two moves are clearly steps in the right direction, I’m not sure these alone will be enough. Rather, they seem (to me) to be Baylor and Baylor-related folks somewhat acknowledging the obvious—that NIL is here to stay and needs to be addressed—while sticking our collective toes in the water. Let’s hope the reaction is such that we see more in the future.