football Edit

NIL collective coming, will be built 'Purdue way'

Purdue is in the midst of forming a collective to assist with its NIL efforts.
Purdue is in the midst of forming a collective to assist with its NIL efforts. (Purdue Athletics)

Auburn has one. So does Utah. Virginia Tech has three. Heck, even Texas-San Antonio has one.

They’re collectives, the hottest tool going in the Name, Image and Likeness industry that is reshaping college sports before our eyes.

Purdue deputy athletics director/chief operating officer Ken Halpin is dialed in, helping lead Purdue’s charge into the NIL game so it can compete with its peers. His message: Purdue has a collective in the works.

“There are so many things going on that you're not going to know about, obviously, until it's been baked,” said Halpin. “That doesn't mean it's not being baked.

“We're working on things behind the curtain to absolutely stay in the game and make sure that we are assembling the most competitive teams possible in all sports.”

While many schools have jumped directly into the deep end with collectives, the Boilermaker athletic department is moving deliberately and cautiously in the new world of collectives.

What are collectives?

They are NIL vehicles that are independent of a university and can serve a variety of purposes. Most often, collectives are pooled funds from boosters and businesses to help facilitate NIL deals for athletes. They also create ways for athletes to monetize their brands.

“Purdue's greatest strength is the integrity and the academic excellence tied to what it means to be a Boilermaker,” said Halpin. “And we repeat that constantly as we've talked about how to build this model.

“That can at times delay the velocity with which we bring something to the surface. But it's not going to stop us from putting ourselves in a position to graduate student-athletes at an elite level, prepare them to make a difference in life and still compete for national titles.”

When does Purdue expect to introduce its collective?

“We’ll have it done very soon,” said Halpin. “We know our fans are passionate and ready to jump on board when we bring it to market.”

Purdue has already started to build infrastructure to assist with NIL, a system launched last year to allow athletes to make money through a variety of ways—endorsements, camps, social media, appearances, etc.

Purdue recently launched the Boilermaker Marketplace exchange with INFLCR. Its purpose is to serve as a portal for local businesses and employers to connect with Purdue athletes. The tool assists in the creation of business connections, streamlines payment and reporting processes, consolidates tax information and creates separation between Purdue and each athlete's pursuit of NIL opportunities.

But, it’s “collectives” that have caused a stir from coast to coast.

One big issue now in this brave (and scary) new world of NIL/collectives: The NCAA has provided no guard rails save for two things.

• Using NIL as a recruiting inducement

• Using NIL to retain an athlete

But, even those minimal boundaries are seemingly being trampled with reports of what appear to be NIL deals funded through collectives that break the intent of NIL.

“The spirit of the law vs. the letter of the law is what we're spending so much time on here at Purdue,” said Halpin. “For a student-athlete to benefit from their own name, image and likeness is the point we're trying to accomplish. Finding a vehicle to sneak stacks of cash to get people to come to our school is not the goal, is not the point. It's so hard because you hear constant examples of people doing that.”

Examples of liberal application of NIL rules crop up often.

• Washington State reportedly put together a $90,000 package for JC quarterback Cam Ward. His deal includes an apartment, use of a pick-up truck and $50,000 in cash in exchange for promotional appearances.

• Quinn Ewers was given a $1.4 million deal to attend Ohio State. (He left after the fall semester and is at Texas now.)

• Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler was given two new vehicles -- a 2021 Dodge Ram TRX and 2021 Dodge Charger Scat Pack -- as part of a NIL deal. (He left after the season for South Carolina.)

On and on it goes.

“You hear stories of schools sitting at the table and flat out stating a number,” said Halpin. “That's an inducement. Purdue wants to stay competitive in the recruiting landscape, but we don't want to violate the rules or react to the trends of the market right now just because others are doing it.”

And then there’s the murky territory of linking collectives to charities.

Notre Dame has gone head-first into this game with Friends of the University of Notre Dame, Inc. (FUND) that uses the name, image and likeness of Notre Dame athletes to help promote charities.

Athletes are matched with charities. They’re then paid for various activities: attending events, social media and volunteering. The charities receive financial donations from FUND, which is not affiliated with the university. FUND uses tax-deductible donations to give the student-athletes their stipends and to support the charities.

“To use a charity to route a six-figure payment to student-athletes, that doesn't feel right to us,” said Halpin. “So, finding the balance where we're helping student-athletes make a difference in causes they care about, but not going so far as to use a charity to justify a payment to a student-athlete, that’s the space that we're trying to study to make sure that as we enter the marketplace, we're doing so in a way that we can make a difference, that we can be competitive. But what we will not do is sacrifice the integrity that Purdue has built over 150 years of its existence.”

While Purdue’s unwillingness to work the fringes of the NIL/collective model is noble, could it hurt from a recruiting standpoint if it doesn’t “play the game”?

“We talk about that constantly,” said Halpin. “We believe there is a way to do it. The best I can say right now is we can do this the Purdue way.

“So, again, we're not overreacting, but we know we need to enter into this space. We're building this collective to make sure that we can do this but still do it the Purdue way. So that if you fast-forward one year, five years, 10 years, and either the NCAA or a new governing body comes down and reinforces the rules, what we won't do is violate the spirit of the law in the way that we construct our collective.”

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