When five-star offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr. picked Oregon over USC, Michigan, Miami and Washington it caused a stir in the Pac-12 Conference booster world. The Division Street Collective — established to help UO athletes maximize their endorsement power — became an important player in the recruiting equation.
Six figures for Conerly Jr.?
And what else is happening on the endorsement front in the Pac-12?
I reached out to a member of Washington State’s “Cougar Collective” on Thursday who confirmed that the entity put together a lucrative package for transfer quarterback Cameron Ward.
Ward jumped in the portal in January and transferred from University of the Incarnate Word to WSU. He figures to be an integral part of the Air Raid 2.0 offense that new offensive coordinator Eric Morris is implementing in spring football.
Ward’s total haul: $90,000.
His deal includes a contract with a housing firm for the school year that provides an apartment in Pullman. Also, Ward gets the use of a new pick-up truck for the year from a booster-owned car dealership. Also, he collects $50,000 in cash in exchange for promotional appearances he’ll make in the next year.
Said one member of the WSU collective: “For smaller schools to compete, it’s going to be very important. Our donor base is strong but nowhere near some of the big hitters.”
The “Cougar Collective” doesn’t have a required minimum contribution from donors. It also doesn’t collect fees or turn a profit. It’s solely there for the benefit of athletes. The group formed and put out the call for “like-minded business owners” and then placed an emphasis on the connections that the current and future athletes could form with business owners and leaders.
Said the donor: “We would love to be able to show any athlete, no matter what sport, that we can offer them some financial support to make college life a little easier.”
Ward won’t have to worry about transportation and housing and has $50,000 in walking-around money. Also, it’s above board. The early foray into this new world was all over the place but we’re starting to get a feel for the market rate for players.
I have WSU athletic director Pat Chun on the statewide radio show today. We’ll talk some about the “Cougar Collective” and what he’s concerned about. I wonder if the athletic directors are concerned that booster donations to collectives are cannibalizing university gift giving.
The deals are not allowed to be performance based, per the rules. Also, athletes can take the deals and transfer. They don’t bind the athlete to the university. So there’s some risk to the collectives.
The NCAA is woefully behind the curve on all of this, of course. Coaches and athletic directors are already speaking out. I support the right of a college kid to earn from his or her endorsement. But the WSU donor raised a great point. The potential separation between the “haves” and “have nots” on the college landscape is problematic.
Also, where is the line and will the NCAA ever draw one?
WSU and some others are doing it right and appear to be in it for the athletes. But we all know what happens when the ethics get skewed and the deals rise in value.
HOT TICKET: Oregon State’s football season-ticket renewal campaign is tracking well, per a university source. The Beavers have renewed 87 percent of the season tickets from last season and hit a 95 percent sales rate (renewals + new tickets) this week.
Athletic director Scott Barnes has to be thrilled. Those figures are the best renewal rates since 2013 when the football program was coming off a 9-4 season under Mike Riley. The Beavers are confident that the figures will result in overall season-ticket growth from 2021 to 2022.
Reser Stadium is undergoing a renovation of the West side of the stadium. Season-ticket holders on that now-demolished side are being relocated to the East side next season. The capacity for the 2022 season has been set at 26,407.
OSU’s spring game is Saturday. Admission is free to the public and gates open at 9:30 a.m. The game itself will air on the Pac-12 Network at 11 a.m.
OVER AND OUT: Journeyman college quarterback JT Daniels announced this week that he’s transferring from Georgia to West Virginia. He and his father showed up at an Oregon State spring practice a few weeks ago and observed. The Beavers knew Daniels was shopping as he declined an offer to take some photos wearing OSU gear during his visit. But the most interesting part of his trip to Corvallis was how it was viewed by current players on the roster.
Everyone knows Daniels was looking for a promise of playing time or maybe even a guarantee that he’d start.
Said one veteran OSU player: “He won’t get a guarantee of playing time here — no way. That’s not how our coach works. How would that go over in the locker room? He’d never have guys behind him. Also, some of us were talking about it… I mean, it was like he was there scouting our other quarterbacks to see what the competition was like.”
Is his decision to attend West Virginia a vote of confidence for incumbents Chance Nolan and Tristan Gebbia? Maybe. But the bigger endorsement came when I told that same veteran Beavers’ player that I wondered if Jonathan Smith still needed to find a quarterback capable of winning games in the final two minutes.
The player shot back: “You’re wrong there. I think we have at least two.”
HONORING 42: UCLA has a three-game baseball series against Stanford this week at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Bruins have declared Friday “Jackie Robinson Day” — celebrating the 75th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in the big leagues.
ESPN2 is carrying the 7 p.m. PT game live and UCLA is giving away commemorative “42” T-shirts to the first 1,000 fans who pass through the gates. It’s a cool reflection of Robinson’s legacy and connection to his alma mater. UCLA is 23-9 this season and has won nine of the last 10.
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Key sentence in the section about the NIL benefits for WSU's quarterback? 'Also, it’s above board.' Before it was happening under the table. And, guess what? The college football 'Haves' always have had an advantage over the 'Have Nots.' The new NIL rules haven't changed that.
This whole NIL thing is hard to keep up with and is making my head spin. Definitely a game changer (no pun intended).