WVU stars form society to help athletes with NIL | News


MORGANTOWN — No one saw it coming the way it did, with all the thunder and lightning of a tornado storm rolling across the landscape that was college athletics, especially at the top where football and the men’s basketball bring the money.

NIL is “Name, Image and Likeness” and, a recent lawsuit filed under the name of former Mountaineer running back Shane Alston ruled that college athletes could take advantage of their name, likeness and image.

All of a sudden, the NCAA had become the NFL. Amateurism had ended in college football and basketball – as well as other sports – forever. A player can now do autograph sessions for money, can now do camps for money, can now create blogs and podcasts for money, can now advertise, be on billboards, promoting products and businesses through social networks.

The game was and is changing.

“Whether you agree or not, it doesn’t matter,” former WVU quarterback and athletic director Oliver Luck said in a recent interview. “This is the new order of college athletics.”

The college’s athletic order had already undergone a drastic change, reducing the schools’ grip on its athletes, who at one time were only entitled to a scholarship, which included room and board and tuition money. the laundry, held at school by an umbilical cord which made the transfer difficult. and forced them to take a year off if transferred.

The sport has found itself battling in court for athlete rights, from facilities to funds to freedom of movement. This has been multiplied many times over by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caught schools and the NCAA’s governing body already reeling and struggling to maintain their power in full transition mode.

It included a “transfer portal” that allowed players to transfer without any restrictions, forgoing the sit-out year and other previously frowned upon moves from conference school to rival.

The hinges were open and now the coaches were not only recruiting freshmen, they were just as eagerly recruiting transfers and also had to recruit their own players over and over again every year in order for them to stay.

Then the money kicked in and the powerhouse schools – Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia… you know the names – seemed almost certain to bring together top athletes through the strength of NIL opportunities.

Granted, the opportunities to make money through NIL were stronger at top schools than at WVU, Iowa State, Kansas State…and that’s only in the Big 12.

How could WVU compete?

That’s when WVU alumnus and booster Ken Kendrick, as well as owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, contacted Luck by phone.

“I give Ken Kendrick a lot of credit,” Luck said. “He’s been around. He’s gotten used to the old rules, but he called me and said, ‘Oliver, we risk being left behind. We may have to do this to stay where we are. Whether you agree if it’s right or wrong, that’s what it is.”

He proposed that they set up what became “Country Roads Trust”, a company with no connection to the university (which would be against the rules) that would help create NIL opportunities for athletes.

“It happens in all college sports. Not just the Power 5 but Group 5, all FBS schools,” Luck said. “I think the general opinion is that unless the school has an entity like this in Tallahassee, Blacksburg, College Park, this school could fall behind.

“As Ken Kendrick told me, ‘Oliver, that’s just the price of playing poker in the Power 5.’

Luck, of course, is a product of the old ways, recruited from Cleveland to play WVU by Frank Cignetti. He thinks his career could have been very different today.

“I remember being a backup quarterback my freshman year. He and Dutch Hoffman were only a year ahead of me,” he said. “I said, ‘Damn, I’m going to do my best to get the starting job.’ I did and he transferred. In today’s world, I probably would have transferred. I was a freshman, a year behind, he had more experience. He did. started 11 games for coach Cignetti.

“It’s a different world. Coaches today need to listen to their players more because they have so many opportunities to leave. They can jump into the portal, rightly or wrongly.”

Luck recalls his thought as a rookie in high school and when his All-Pro son Andrew followed in his footsteps in the NFL.

“You would say ‘OK, is this a coaching staff that can help me improve? Is there a coaching staff that can help me get into the NFL? Is this a school I’m proud to graduate from and can pursue anything is it close enough to my home for my parents to come watch me play?” Luck said.

“These are the factors that the kids talked about when they decided to go to school X, Y or Z. I think there is now an additional factor for high school recruits, portal children, and it’s ‘Is this a school where I can max out my NIL?’ Have others been able to go to school there and make $5,000, $100,000 or whatever?

“It’s real. There’s no doubt about it.”

Right now, no one really knows what the earning possibilities are, but it’s definitely a lot more than anyone thought.

Luck was asked what Pat White would have done on NIL in West Virginia if he were to come today?

“That’s a good question. I’m not sure,” Luck said. “One of the reasons is that there is no national database. At one time the NCAA wanted to have a national database where every transaction at every school would be reported. Then you were able to see that a kid at this school did an autograph session for $100 and another kid at another school did one for $1,000 or $100,000.

“What we all read is anecdotal and there are a lot of rumours. ‘Deion Sanders at Jackson State got this top-ranked cornerback and it only cost him a million dollars. Is that true? I I don’t know. There’s no way to really know.”

But would Pat White end up at WVU? Was he a quarterback? If a school like LSU or a similar school like Ohio State had offered him to play cornerback there, with the outside opportunities in that state which includes New Orleans, wouldn’t he have taken that?

“Obviously Ohio State is a very successful program and has sent several guys to the NFL as first-round picks. There’s 100,000 every game. They’re probably going to be one of the best schools as far as is about NIL opportunities, but I think WVU — with a concerted effort — can be on the same level,” Luck continued.

“I think a guy like Pat White could have done as well as Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State. Pat was the best we ever had in my opinion as a quarterback. He had a wonderful career and was a friendly guy with a good image.

“But I have no idea what Pat White could win in the present day.”

What is the Country Roads Trust? Isn’t it really just an agency — like those dealing with professional contracts and endorsements — under another name?

“I don’t know if it’s an agency,” Luck said. “We don’t take a discount, if you will. If there’s a car dealership in Fairmont and they’re willing to give a student athlete $500 a month for social media posts, book signings, autographs or whatever, and if we arrange that through the trust, we don’t take a 10% or 20% discount, which an agency usually does.

“We try to provide as many opportunities as possible for mountaineering athletes from all teams without taking a discount. We will have overhead, but we believe we can pay for this with donations. We want to make sure that students- athletes get 100% of what they bargained for.”

Luck and Kendrick have put together a strong advisory team that includes Jerry West, Don Nehlen, White, Pat McAfee, Olympic rifle gold medalist Ginny Thrasher and Da’Sean Butler, among others, to help compete with the other schools.

The website is now available at https://countryroadstrust.com.

Follow @bhertzel on Twitter

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