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IOWA CITY — Iowa football has a “realistic” chance of having a collective to help athletes earn name, image and likeness deals, head coach Kirk Ferentz said this week.
“That's probably the next train coming down the track,” Ferentz said.
About nine months into the NIL era of collegiate athletes, collectives have become an increasingly popular tool to help athletes sign deals.
“I imagine pretty much everybody will have some form of one at some point,” Ferentz said.
Collectives, while specific to a school, operate independently from the university and help athletes find NIL deals.
Several collectives affiliated with Iowa’s Big Ten rivals — including Nebraska, Penn State, Illinois and Ohio State, per On3 Sports — have been unveiled.
“Most people did not see collectives coming, so a lot of schools think they're behind the eight ball,” said Peter Schoenthal, the chief executive officer of Athliance.
But Schoenthal, whose company works with about 35 athletics departments across the country on NIL compliance and education, said it’s certainly not too late for a program like Iowa to join the collectives trend.
“This space is full of big announcements with no action,” Schoenthal said. “Lots of bark with very little bite. … 95 to 98 percent of schools are in the same boat.”
As the relatively new concept of NIL marketplaces proliferates, Schoenthal sees two types of collectives emerging.
With the “good” type — also the more sustainable type — “student-athletes, fans, businesses and boosters all know where to go to broker NIL deals” in a system separate from the athletics department, Schoenthal said.
“Collectives, if done right, can be a great tool for universities to help their student-athletes with NIL, which will therefore impact recruiting naturally,” Schoenthal said.
The “bad” type of collectives, Schoenthal said, consists of boosters “paying student-athletes large sums of money in the name of charity where they’re not really doing big charitable work.”
The latter is a tool to “induce” players to commit to a particular school, Schoenthal said, which violates NCAA rules. One high school athlete signed an $8 million NIL deal with a particular school’s collective, according to a report from The Athletic.
Schoenthal doesn’t envision the “bad” collectives lasting long, though.
“A lot of those collectives are going to have their 501(c)(3)s reexamined by the IRS, and it could get a little dicey,” Schoenthal said.
Ferentz has “actually taken some time” to learn about collectives, he said Wednesday, but is “hardly the expert” on the subject.
“I can't tell you that I can follow it all or understand,” Ferentz said. “But looks like this collective thing is going to gain traction and already has.”
To a large extent, Ferentz doesn’t need to be the expert on it yet either. Schoenthal said collectives are still in their “infancy” at this point.
“We are nine months into something that's going to take 36 to 48 months to figure out,” Schoenthal said.
The lack of consistent governing around NIL from state to state — Illinois, for example, has a state NIL law while Iowa does not and therefore follows a more lax set of NCAA rules — adds another variable to the collectives industry.
“One of the athletic directors who I have a lot of respect for said we need the federal government's involvement,” Ferentz said. “It's a scary thought to think about that, but I think in this case, it's probably true.”
The 66-year-old head coach’s fear about the future of NIL surrounds competitive imbalance.
“Twenty years ago, college football was probably better than 20 years before that because there's a little bit more parity and even-field competition,” Ferentz said. “I could see this potentially just driving things back to the old days.”
Ferentz still remembers Nebraska routing Army, 77-7, in 1972 when he was a junior at Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh. He doesn’t want that happening again five decades later.
“First of all, that's not patriotic,” Ferentz said, “and secondly, nobody benefits from a game like that.”
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