On July 1, 2021 the landscape of college athletics was changed forever when the NCAA finally allowed student-athletes to benefit from the use of their name, image, and likeness. After years of fighting for NIL rights, with the final push coming from a group of student-athletes led by Rutgers’ Geo Baker, it became a reality. Fast forward almost a year later and the impact of NIL rights for student-athletes continues to grow.
In recent months we’ve seen fans, boosters and alumni from different schools across the country forming groups to support NIL opportunities for student-athletes in the form of collectives. Today, on May 5, 2022, the first ever Rutgers NIL Collective has been formally announced and is called “The Knights of the Raritan”. The group has partnered with Student Athlete Empowerment (SAE) to “help facilitate NIL opportunities” for student-athletes at Rutgers.
Per the press release, “KTR is an all-volunteer organization comprised of Rutgers fans, alumni and donors with the goal of empowering Scarlet Knight student-athletes to achieve their greatest potential in the classroom, on the playing field and in life. The collective seeks to enable them to maximize their NIL opportunities the right way, without compromising the values of the university.”
The group was started by a nine member executive committee who are Rutgers fans, alumni and donors. They include Newman, Al Reicheg, Danny Breslauer, Jeff Towers, Scott White, Ken Miller, Jerrold Colton, Russ Nesevich and Ryan Stryker.
The executive committee are all volunteering their time and are not earning any income from this venture. The group has pledged that 85% of all dollars collected will be put back into the organization to help student-athletes benefit from NIL rights. The other 15% will cover costs associated to operating KTR.
“We want to make it easy for Rutgers fans and the tri-state corporate community to support Rutgers student-athletes,” said Jon Newman, president, The Knights of The Raritan. “At KTR we hope to educate Scarlet Nation and provide a “front door” for those who want to invest in NIL opportunities for the Scarlet Knights.”
It was Newman and Breslauer, the co-hosts of The Scarlet Spotlight Podcast, who signed the first NIL deal with any Rutgers student-athlete when they agreed to terms with running back Isiah Pacheco to make guest appearances during the football season last fall. Soon after, they also signed Geo Baker and he made multiple appearances on their podcast this past season.
In speaking with Newman earlier this week, he explained that he and Breslauer learned about the challenges of the NIL process through making those deals. It’s what got the wheels turning in beginning the process of forming a collective for Rutgers. Something as basic as having the ability to contact student-athletes directly about NIL deals and how the university could or couldn’t be involved in that process was unchartered territory.
“By October and November, I started seeing the beginnings of NIL collectives propping up with the usual suspects. Texas, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Florida State,” said Newman. “The whole idea of what is now commonly known as NIL collective were started by these alumni donor groups at the high level colleges and universities as a way to raise money independently of the athletic department. To do it in a way were they could have large parts of money to be able to either retain student-athletes or as we’ve seen, attract student-athletes to (their school). Primarily football and basketball but we’ve seen other cases as well.”
Newman continued, “With third parties now getting involved, I did some due diligence with some folks. Rutgers still for all the right reasons, as an athletic department could not get into that space. I said, if we as fans and supporters, people who have (already) invested into the athletic department, if we don’t at least look into this, then we are going to be behind the eight ball.”
As the group came together with the executive board, they then decided between three different organizations, all of whom had some type of connection to Rutgers, with which they would partner with to form the NIL collective. After a months long process, they ultimately chose SAE led by Jason Belzer, who is a Rutgers alumnus. The executive board of KTR oversees the operation while SAE will execute the direction Newman’s group wants to go based on different avenues available.
On what KTR selected Belzer’s firm, “He knows Rutgers. He went there undergrad, graduated from the business school and he now teaches at the business school. He’s also a sports agent but he deals primarily with coaches. He knows that space. To the extent that you can be an expert in the NIL space, Jason is an expert in the NIL space. He is hosting the first national conference on NIL in Atlanta in June. We are getting 400 student-athletes down there. He has corporate connections. And given how quickly this space changes, we wanted someone that if we needed to pivot on a dime because the rules have changed, he can help us do that.”
“We’re incredibly excited to help launch The Knights Of The Raritan collective,” says Jason Belzer, CEO of Student Athlete NIL. “As a former Scarlet Knight who has long advocated for student-athletes to have the ability to monetize their name, image and likeness, there is no greater honor than to be working hand-in-hand with fellow alumni and supporters of Rutgers to help current student-athletes make the most of a new era of opportunities.”
SAE is managing the day-to-day operations of The Knights Of The Raritan which include accounting and legal aspects such as finalizing contracts and deals with brands that want to partner with student-athletes. SAE handles the money flow and is responsible for executing the specific deals with companies and the student-athletes.
As NIL rights becomes more regulated over time at the state and federal levels, SAE will be key in ensuring KTR is compliant and maximizing their opportunities that are available to them.
Per the press release, their mission includes, “Based in New Brunswick, the collective will operate in compliance with the rules set forth by the State of New Jersey and Rutgers athletics. Programs will include: academic internships, influencer marketing, brand partnerships, camps and clinics, as well as robust education in both financial and legal literacy.”
Newman was clear on two things in regard to the philosophy of this NIL Collective. They known this venture will not be embraced by every Rutgers fan and instead of trying to convince them otherwise, the plan is to focus their time and energy on connecting those supporters who do believe in their mission. Second, the plan for now is to prioritize current student-athletes for NIL opportunities rather than focus on recruits.
In fact, part of KTR’s launch is announcing their partnership with five current student-athletes at Rutgers. They’ve signed Kessawn Abraham, Ireland Brown Josh Youngblood from football as well as Paul Mulcahy of men’s basketball and Riley Tiernan of women’s soccer. These five student-athletes will help promote the launch of KTR through their social media channels.
To help student-athletes through the process of making deals related to their NIL rights, KTR has formed a volunteer Advisory Board that will help guide them as well as the collective itself. The Advisory Board is made up of Rutgers alumni who were student-athletes on the banks. The group is expected to grow over time and currently include:
- Ryan Hart – Football
- Sean DeDeyn – Wrestling
- Quincy Douby – Men’s Basketball
- Austin Johnson – Men’s Basketball
- Caitlin Hardage – Women’s Volleyball
- Katie Larmour – Field Hockey
- Joe Nardella – Men’s Lacrosse
- Brianne Reed – Women’s Soccer
- Marc Moreau – Men’s Lacrosse
- Will Mangan – Men’s Lacrosse
- Bobby Brownlie – Baseball
- Phil Napolitano – Men’s Soccer
As for how fans can get involved, KTR offers three specific ways for fans to contribute to the collective. They include the following:
- Individuals can become monthly members for as little as 10 dollars per month and become eligible to receive exclusive content, invitations to events, and access to memorabilia.
- Individuals can make one-time investments into a general fund overseen by the executive committee to create NIL deals for student-athletes across all Rutgers sports.
- Individuals can earmark investments to specific sports and/or athletes with those funds overseen by the executive committee and deals executed by SAE.
As for businesses, they can utilize KTR by proposing “NIL deals for specific sports and/or athletes or designate the investment to the general fund.”
“We see this as an opportunity for all fans,” Newman stated. “People are reading that these collectives are funded by large donors that are raising millions of dollars by day one. We’d love for that to happen, but at the same token we see this as an opportunity for Rutgers fans that are passionate about student-athletes and NIL who don’t have large sums of money but can help with as little as $10 per month. Fans then get benefits back for being a member.”
This launch is an exciting day for Rutgers fans. The world of college athletics is changing and will continue to do so. Having an established NIL Collective is a necessary part of being competitive in high major college athletics. After seeing so many programs within the athletic department as a whole dramatically improve, the Knights of the Raritan can help to keep Rutgers moving forward by increasing NIL opportunities for Scarlet Knight student-athletes. It adds value to their experience as student-athletes and creates more ways for to connect with fan base.
The organization will soon announce more strategic partnerships, providing first-class opportunities for the Scarlet Knights athletes that the collective was created to serve.
More information on this NIL collective and how you can get involved, visit Knights Of The Raritan – Name Image Likeness.