Canzano: Early returns on NIL for Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers comes amid questions

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The NCAA is poking around the University of Oregon, asking questions about its relationship with the newly formed third-party entity called Division Street, Inc.

UO says it’s cooperating with the NCAA. The probe was first reported by Sportico over the weekend and it appears at this point that the governing body of college athletics is trying to grasp Oregon’s policies and procedures as it pertains to athletes monetizing their name, image and likeness.

The Division Street venture was organized last September by a group of prominent UO boosters who wildly excelled in their respective industries. Sneaker czar Phil Knight joined forces with Pat Kilkenny (insurance), Ed Maletis (beverages), Jim Morse (lumber) and the Pape’ Family (machinery) to form an entity that aims to assist Ducks’ athletes in this NIL world.

So how’s it going?

Internal university communications obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive give us a glimpse at the early returns on the business of NIL at both Oregon and Oregon State.

Oregon logged 273 deals for student-athletes after the floodgates were opened in July of 2021, clearing the way for athletes to sign endorsement deals. Of those, 156 were for female athletes and 215 were for non-football players.

Average deal: $1,087.

Biggest deal: $100,000 (Kayvon Thibodeaux, football).

Meanwhile, Oregon State logged 48 NIL deals for athletes in the same time frame. Of those, 18 were for female athletes and 35 were for non-football players.

Average deal: $5,340.

Biggest deal: $200,000 (Jade Carey, gymnastics).

It’s a small sample size — and it’s still way early — but the NIL trend between the two in-state universities is an interesting study. The Ducks are outscoring the Beavers on the total number of deals made (273-48), but I’m told a pile of those UO arrangements included a trade of free Nike apparel and merchandise and no cash exchanged, which drove down the value of the average deal.

Also, if you remove the six-figure deals for Thibodeaux and Carey you get a better idea of how the average athlete who received an NIL deal actually did. The average deal at Oregon without Thibodeaux’s biggest endorsement would be $723, while the average at OSU without Carey’s big contract included is $1,198.

Oregon has had 58 football players benefit from NIL deals so far. OSU has had 13. Keep an eye on that tally as this progresses because I suspect the NCAA’s NIL questions will focus on football and men’s basketball even as it appears female athletes appear to be participating proportionally in our state.

Football is easily the biggest revenue generator in the UO athletic department. It accounts for 70 percent of the UO athletic department revenue. It’s the only revenue-generating sport at Oregon State, as well. The Beavers formed something called “expOSUre” to help assist athletes on campus with the business side of college athletics, but it appears to be being outpaced right now by the work of Division Street, Inc. I’m not sure what got the NCAA’s attention, but the disparity in the number of football-related deals pops off the page.

When NIL was first announced, I figured it would curb some of the cheating that goes on behind the scenes in college athletics. But now, I’m not so sure. I asked Beavers’ athletic director Scott Barnes last week whether he thought NIL invited more or less cheating in college athletics.

He didn’t hesitate.

”It invites more and I say that because of the NCAA’s lack of leadership in governing it,” Barnes said. “I do believe it invites more cheating.”

Lawmakers in Oregon are also looking hard at NIL right now. There are a couple of bills being proposed in the upcoming legislative session, one of them aimed at allowing in-state college athletes to collect royalties on jersey sales and appearances in video games, among other things. Oregon would join Pennsylvania as the only states to allow that and it would open more opportunities for athletes in our state to collect payments.

State Senator Peter Courtney told me last week that when the initial legislation for the current NIL laws were proposed a couple of years ago, he got strong push back from leadership at both Oregon and Oregon State.

“Last time I had the president of the NCAA against it,” Courtney said. “I had the president at the University of Oregon against it. I had the AD at Oregon State against it. I had Oregon’s AD against it … they’re not against it now, but they won’t go quite as far as I want them to go.”

Why?

“I am taking money away from them that they want to spend in all kinds of ways,” Courtney said. “That is their mentality. Do you know how much money is involved in this stuff?”

Email: John@JohnCanzano.com

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