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The Collective Association: The First National NIL Group Takes Shape

The Collective Association, representing a smattering of Power 5 collectives, added 10 new members. Here’s what they’re looking to accomplish.

When NIL started in college sports, NIL collectives soon followed. The logical next step is now here, as we’ve reached the era of NIL collective associations. Or, as the first one is known, The Collective Association.

The Collective Association, which launched last month with seven power conference school collectives, has added 10 more — all from the Power 5 as well. As On3 reported on Thursday, TCA plans to work directly with its members on NIL-related issues, including lobbying for state legislation, creating an agent registry, and developing a revenue-sharing model.

As of now, the following schools have collectives in TCA:

  • Ole Miss
  • Penn State
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • USC
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What Does An NIL Collective Do?

In their simplest form, NIL collectives exist as an NCAA-compliant way for boosters to pay student-athletes directly. Because the NCAA still outlaws “pay-for-play,” a wealthy donor cannot simply reach out to an athlete in the transfer portal and promise them a sum of money in exchange for a commitment. They can, however, donate to a collective, which pools its money and licenses players’ NIL rights. Collectives can also help facilitate NIL deals for that school’s athletes.

If it sounds like collectives can easily be used to lure recruits in a workaround to pay-for-play rules, well, that’s because they can be. While it can’t be explicitly done as outlined above, there’s no rule that keeps a coach from saying to a young quarterback, “Well, our starting quarterback last year received X from our collective, which is more than any other school you’re looking at can match. We can’t guarantee anything, but the only way you can earn NIL money from our collective is by coming to our school.”

This has led to obvious concern from NCAA administrators looking to rein in these collectives — though they are technically not affiliated directly with the schools, which makes it difficult. From the collectives’ point of view, they need to continue operating in a way that is both beneficial to their universities and NCAA-compliant.

The Collective Association Goals

The Collective Association will ultimately represent its members’ student-athletes as the NCAA continues to evolve its stance on NIL. A significant part of this, according to On3, is developing a revenue-sharing model. On3 cited Matt Hibbs of Georgia’s Classic City Collective, who proposed that conferences could give some of their TV revenue to league-wide collectives, which would relieve some of the financial burden from boosters.

TCA also wants to work with new NCAA president Charlie Baker on developing an agent registry for student-athletes. Details on what that would look like are still scarce, but the idea would be to develop uniform standards for agents looking to represent college students.

A lack of uniformity from state to state is also an issue that has plagued the NIL world. With no federal law on the books just yet, athletes in 50 states are operating by 50 sets of rules. TCA wants to work with schools that will lobby for better NIL legislation at the state level. Baker also wants Congress to pass an NIL bill and many of his wishes for that bill align with TCA’s interests.

As of now, TCA members only represent the highest-revenue Division I institutions. As the gap between the haves and have-nots in college sports continues to grow, pay attention to who has the loudest voices in the room. Big money in college athletics isn’t going anywhere. How it’s allocated, however, remains fluid.

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