The tide is changing around school spirit and star athletes. Here’s how Alabama is cashing in on the past and present in abundant fashion.
Quarterback Bryce Young started all 15 of Alabama’s games last year, taking the Tide all the way to the national title game as a sophomore. In Tuscaloosa, fans flocked to stores and online outfitters to support their top-tier squad, buying up every crimson-colored t-shirt or hat in stock.
One item not in stock most of last season: Young’s No. 9 Nike jersey. Furthermore, you couldn’t buy any jersey with “Young” on the back unless you hounded an equipment manager or Young himself.
This season, that’s changed.
Entering the second year of NIL, Fanatics and OneTeam have united to empower players through the sales of their uniforms.
It comes as no surprise that, as of this writing, Fanatics lists the item as Most Popular in Jerseys.
While Young is earning off his likeness through his No. 9 jersey, he’s not the only one with the opportunity.
Thanks to Fanatics and OneTeam’s Pick-a-Player NIL program, jerseys for all 128 members of Alabama’s 2022 team are available for purchase. From freshman Cade Carruth to senior Henry To’oTo’o, fans can purchase a replica Nike jersey featuring their favorite player’s name and number.
Alabama is one of 40 schools in this Fanatics program.
“Broad-scale group rights for college athletes is the only pathway to bring this program forward,” Derek Eiler, Fanatics’ executive vice president of college sports, said earlier this month.
Aligning with OneTeam and aiming to create an even “deeper connection between schools, college athletes, and fans through licensed merchandise,” the first season of this deal already appears a success at Alabama.
The connection goes as deep as the team’s depth chart. While top talent like Young will produce the most revenue for his school and himself, all athletes have a chance to earn off their likenesses through this new deal in a fashion that feels more turnkey than most NIL deals.
Because of the legend of Alabama football, the Tide can leverage both their bright future and historic past.
Across the country, the likes of Clemson, Maryland, Penn State, Oregon, and Florida have all entered the NIL jersey action. That means Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and Jordan Brand all have jerseys baring the last names of current players, from Heisman hopefuls to walk-ons.
Where Bama breaks the mold in the Fanatics universe is its unrivaled history.
Yes, each of the 40 schools signed on offers a total of 4,300 student-athletes the chance to take home pay, even if mom and dad are the only ones who purchase.
However, Alabama sells Nike replica tops not just for today’s athletes, but also for those who’ve long left Tuscaloosa.
From recent stars like Mac Jones all the way back to adored alumni like Joe Namath, the Fanatics formula of quick printing and on-point audience targeting gives fans a chance to show support to their all-time favorites.
It also leverages how last season alone, Crimson Tide talent made for eight of the top 50 highest-selling NFL jerseys.
Active alumni in the NFL like Mark Ingram, Derrick Henry, and DeVonta Smith are all among the stars whose jerseys are sold on site, not just in pro fashion but also through Roll Tide threads.
Still, it’s great branding for the school and the alumni alike as they aim to make their mark even bigger.
A recent mock draft from Walter Sports has Young going second overall in the 2023 NFL Draft. If Young’s performance over the last year-plus continues, then health permitting, he’ll make millions for years to come.
However, none of that’s guaranteed.
By banking from NIL in his amateur ascent, he’s raking in royalties his predecessors can only dream of. This includes other Heisman winners that also went on to be top-10 NFL Draft Picks and have solid pro careers.
“I go way back to when Reggie Bush was at USC,” Demond Howard told Boardroom last month. “It’s really simple: how many of those No. 5 jerseys did they sell before he wore it and how many did they sell after he wore it? Just open up the books, because you have the sales. If you sold way more after it’s because he gave that jersey value. He should be able to benefit and receive a percentage of the profits of that jersey.”
Now, through Fanatics and OneTeam, the tide is finally turning with Young at the apex of the wave. As Alabama approaches a new Nike deal when their current contract expires in 2025 — or hears offers from other suitors — the ability to sell slews of jerseys through NIL can only help push the price.
According to Al.com in 2018, the Crimson Tide make a mere $5.25M a year from their 2013 Nike extension that was, in hindsight, signed too early. Since signing the extension, college apparel contracts have skyrocketed — Nike pays Ohio State and Texas over $16M a year. Bama has also won three national titles and produced three Heisman winners in that time.
All this signals more money for Alabama, but more importantly, confirms cold hard cash for Young and his teammates.