Canzano – Cost of college football transfer game is clear

Published: Nov. 11, 2022

By John Canzano | Bald Faced Truth

Transfer quarterback JT Daniels visited Oregon State last spring. He observed practice and talked with football coaches. During the visit, word circulated among high-level Beavers donors about what Daniels sought from a NIL collective.

A personal chef.

A four-bedroom rental house.

A six-figure endorsement deal.

Daniels’ father drove the conversation. The OSU donors never spoke with the quarterback himself. The talks fizzled out. It came as no surprise to anyone that Daniels didn’t end up in Corvallis.

In May, Daniels transferred to West Virginia University.

A month later, the quarterback and two of his new teammates hosted a football camp in Morgantown, W.V. The camp was free and served 75 elementary and middle-school students.

Daniels cashed in, though.

The appearance was part of a NIL deal worth more than six figures, per a source. The camp was hosted by Country Roads Trust, a NIL collective for West Virginia athletics. Diversified Energy — an oil and gas production company — sponsored the event.

Oregon State’s supporters got serious about joining the NIL game this week. A new booster collective popped up on Thursday morning. “Dam Nation” bills itself as “The preferred collective of Oregon State athletics.”

It’s founded by a former Nike executive named Dick Oldfield and Kyle Bjornstad, a former OSU associate athletic director. The collective has partnered with Learfield, a collegiate sports-marketing agency. Learfield has pre-existing OSU sponsor connections. The collective is focused on helping Beavers’ athletes maximize their endorsement opportunities.

Daniels’ father was looking out for his kid. It’s a new world. I guess I don’t blame him. He wanted the four bedroom rental home, per sources, because one of the bedrooms would be dedicated to weights and fitness equipment. The other rooms were for family members who would visit.

Arizona State has the “Sun Angel Collective.” Jeffrey Burg is one of the founding members. He told me after the launch that the collective quickly raised more than $1 million. It focused on soliciting recurring donations from its massive alumni base.

Oregon has “Division Street, Inc.” — launched by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and some other high-profile UO boosters. And Washington State has the “Cougar Collective.” It gave transfer quarterback Cameron Ward a $90,000 package that includes an apartment, a leased truck and flights to Pullman, Wash. for his parents.

OSU’s serious arrival in this space was overdue.

West Virginia is the third college that Daniels has suited up for. He was previously at USC and Georgia. I don’t blame Oregon State for not landing the quarterback last spring. The NIL game was new business. The universities themselves are in a precarious position.

The schools are not allowed to be directly involved with endorsement deals. The collectives handle that — ahem — after the athlete arrives on campus. So having a well-organized, well-funded collective amounts to an advantage.

Some other Beavers’ boosters and donors have helped current OSU athletes with endorsements. Most of them are smaller deals with area restaurants, car dealerships, and other local businesses. The “Dam Nation” effort feels more serious.

Coach Jonathan Smith may need to find an experienced, gifted quarterback this offseason. The transfer portal is the best place to find one. Caleb Williams left Oklahoma for USC. Washington grabbed Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr. and Utah found Cam Rising via transfer. And Oregon got Auburn quarterback Bo Nix in the transfer portal last offseason.

Nine of Pac-12’s football teams will start a transfer quarterback this week. Give the assist to the respective NIL collectives. The point of this piece isn’t to criticize players for cashing in. It’s a game being played everywhere. But if the Pac-12 is going to compete nationally, it has to be equipped to attract — and retain — its best players.

OSU freshman running back Damien Martinez is a great example of the retention game. He’s tearing it up this season. Martinez has 624 rushing yards and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Also, he’s from Texas.

A key part of the mission of “Dam Nation” and the other NIL collectives is to make sure the Pac-12 doesn’t become a feeder system for other conferences.

Jed Collins, president of Washington State’s collective, echoed that sentiment to me recently.

“The ‘Cougar Collective’ is going to reward people who want to stay Cougs,” he said. “We are going to reward loyalty.”