In wake of Pac-12’s demise, Oregon State collective launches ‘Mission to $1 Million’

Published: Sep. 6, 2023

By Eric Prisbell | On3

Dam Nation Collective, the official Oregon State NIL collective, is launching a challenge campaign, touched off by a $1 million dollar-for-dollar challenge from an anonymous school supporter.

In the “Mission to $1 Million” campaign, every new dollar given in support of Oregon State student-athletes through Dam Nation Collective will be matched up to $1 million by the anonymous challenger (up to $2 million).

The campaign was prompted by this summer’s conference realignment frenzy that left Oregon State (and Washington State) without a home after this athletic year. It watched eight other Pac-12 schools chase TV rights revenue – or a long-term plan to do so in the case of Stanford and Cal – to three power conferences.

Oregon State faces difficult questions related to how and when to join the Mountain West Conference, whether it be in a straight expansion move or a so-called reverse merger that involves the Beavers and Cougars retaining some assets from the 108-year-old Conference of Champions. Absorbing Pac-12 branding is also a possibility for the MWC and Commissioner Gloria Nevarez.

But like anything in college sports, money drives decisions. Leave Pac-12 assets – including a small mountain of NCAA tournament financial units and the league’s emergency reserve fund – aside for the moment.

A move to the MWC would mean that OSU would receive a total of a little more than $7 million in total annual revenue – including media rights, NCAA tournament shares and College Football Playoff distributions. That compares to just one-fourth or one-fifth of what the athletic department would receive in the traditional Pac-12, which is now a relic of history.

Washington State President Kirk Schulz, who circled Oct. 1 as a soft deadline for resolution, told Pac-12 insider John Canzano that a priority for both Pacific Northwest schools is to continue to exist and fund programs like a Power 5 school, even though they will no longer be one.

“There’s no magic bag of money sitting beneath the president’s desk where you can reach in and pull cash out,” Schulz said.

Oregon State abandoned in realignment purgatory
Oregon State President Jayathi Murthy said Friday that she hopes a resolution will come in a matter of weeks and that the Pac-12 brand can be preserved.

“We continue to look for options that work for us, where the needs of our student-athletes are taken care of, where our athletic and academic values align, and where we can play at the national level and be visible,” she said. “But jumping from a conference was never the first option. Making the conference work is always where my heart and my mind lie. And I’m sorry that a top-20 football team ends up where we are because of the focus on media rights and media valuations.”

Oregon State has assumed somewhat of an “America’s Team” persona this football season. It is a school abandoned in realignment purgatory as American capitalism fuels the unrelenting chase for TV rights revenue at the cost of regionality and century-old rivalries. On top of that, the Beavers are ranked No. 16 nationally and are a dark horse contender in the last-ever year of the Pac-12 as we know it.

Long story short, they are compelling characters in a chapter of college football history that will long be retold and examined.

Beavers have ‘always done things the right way’
The collective’s co-founder Dick Oldfield said in a statement: “OSU has always done things the right way and we want to keep providing truly impactful experiences to Beaver student-athletes while others have clearly lost sight of what is important when it comes to the student-athlete experience. We believe this challenge is something that sports fans everywhere can appreciate and support.”

All gift types can be allocated to a general fund supporting all Beaver student-athletes, or to a specific sports program, allowing fans to provide opportunities for student-athletes within programs that they are most passionate about. Dam Nation recently introduced the “Dam Fam” monthly membership program which allows fans to give monthly, rather than in lump sums.

“The OSU community has always excelled when our passionate fans have something to rally towards together,” Dam Nation co-founder Kyle Bjornstad said in a statement. “Given the recent developments across the collegiate athletics landscape, including the Pac-12, we believe OSU Athletics is a program fans across America are embracing. This challenge is a spark that can rally Beaver Nation – and college sports fans everywhere – to support student-athletes who truly deserve it during these times.”

Multiple football players have promoted the Dam Fam program, including transfer quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, a former five-star recruit who earned the starting job this season after transferring from Clemson.