NIL collectives & being competitive: building it at $10 a pop

So, on Monday of this week I made my monthly contributions to Rutgers. I always gave; I received an Alumni Scholarship as an undergrad and I just felt that if people gave so I could attend, then I should do the same. And I’ve continued to this day.

I spread the wealth, such as it is. My Class of 1973 Endowed Scholarship got its $25, as did the Scarlet Guarantee Scholarship Endowment. The R Fund got fifty bucks, split between wrestling and the Big Ten Build (goodness, we will forever need money for capital expenses at Rutgers!).

And then I made my modest commitment to NIL. I joined the Knights of the Raritan collective. Not with much; I made a $10 per month commitment. Which means by the end of the year, Greg Schiano will only need $3,999,950 more to reach his goal. But more on that later.

Now insanity (NIL, the portal) has hit college sports and, as an example, "The U"along with others, has been allowed to pretty much go back to the days of bag men paying players. But I still supported the overall concept of NIL. I liked – and whole heartedly endorsed – Gio Baker’s idea that, just as a music scholarship student could make money by selling a CD of his playing, a scholarship athlete should be able to make money off of his or her skill at, as an example, a summer sports clinic. Or, yes, do a commercial for a local car dealer – for an appropriate fee. Not in exchange for a new car or a bag of cash!

Ah, yes, the days of innocence.

But that was then and this is now. And just as there are NIL "collectives" at virtually every school playing big time sports, Rutgers is in the fray as well. That vehicle is the Knights of the Raritan collective.

Long time Rutgers supporter Jon Newman is leading the effort. He has always been a leader, often offering to match gifts to the R Fund and otherwise supporting athletics. This effort, for obvious reasons, is really big and really important. Back in May, when it was announced, OTB’s Aaron Breitman wrote about it. Jon has told me they currently have about 400 members and will be starting their "in-person" push this football season. While they are still working out the details, expect to see the group’s presence at tail gates this fall in order to educate on the topic.

Recently, Greg Schiano spoke to the Touchdown Club, the University’s football boosters, and pretty much laid out an ultimatum: get Rutgers a bunch of money for NIL deals or we’re gonna lose players to better offers. Not better teams necessarily, but better money. Yeah, amateur athletics!

This is going to be a challenge for Rutgers. Maybe for a lot of other schools, too, but Rutgers has historically been weak in fundraising, and not just athletics. For a school over 250 years old, we have one of the smallest endowments among state universities. Rutgers has about a $ 2 billion dollar endowment; among Big Ten schools that’s almost at the bottom. Thank goodness for Maryland. By comparison, Michigan has a $17 billion endowment with Ohio State No. 2 at $6.8 billion. Rutgers does not generate donations the way others do. In the most recent NCAA report covering the 2020-21 school year, Rutgers Athletics raised just $6,159,587 in donations. Compare that to some of the non-powerhouse Big Ten schools: Indiana took in $18,846,844 while Illinois garnered $24,879,507. That’s three and four times as much as Rutgers – in the Covid year!

For some RU fans, giving a few thousand dollars to keep your football seats is a lot already; wanting to and being able to give to a collective as well could be a bridge too far. For some. But Jon is trying to get as many people involved as possible, which is why there is a $10/month level of participation. Jon stated that even at that modest (my words) level, it can help make a difference.

As I said above, my giving to the collective might seem to be a drop in the bucket of the $4 million Schiano says football needs to stay competitive. And then what about basketball? And lacrosse? And wrestling and soccer and …. Rutgers doesn’t seem to have the big donors like others schools have. Is there a Terry Pegula from Rutgers? He’s the guy who gave Penn State $102 million to create an ice hockey program from pretty much nothing. That’s great for the Nitts, but how does RU come up with the kind of money we may need to keep the best athletes on campus and run a competitive athletic program?

Maybe it’s with a lot of people like me….ten bucks at a time.

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