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Check out the Woody Hayes Athletic Center parking lot at Ohio State University this fall and you might stumble upon a $ 200,000 wheelhouse, the kind of luxury ride most likely to be found in the garages of movie stars, business tycoons. music and business titans than on a college campus.

That’s assuming Buckeyes quarterback CJ Stroud didn’t swap his silver Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon for a Bentley or Porsche, which his name, image, and likeness to the Sarchione Auto Gallery allow him to do every 45 days.

“It definitely changed my life for the future”, Stroud said of the numerous NIL agreements that have come their way over the past year, “and I think it’s a starting point to be a businessman before you get to the NFL, if that’s your path.”

More than a year ago, the NCAA lifted long-standing restrictions on players profiting from their celebrity status and in some cases turned elite players like Stroud and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young into instant millionaires. But the financial benefits for some athletes are weighed against the possibility that such deals divide locker rooms, create tension within schedules, produce an uneven playing field in college track and field, and overwhelm time-strapped students.

“As for NIL in the locker room, you see things, but nobody ever talks about it”, Oklahoma wide receiver Marvin Mims admitted. “It’s never like a competition, like, ‘Oh, I have a lot more money than you. I have this deal. You failed to get this deal. ‘ But notice the NIL deals that other guys are getting.

College football saw the greatest impact of NIL legislation, although athletes across all sports drew on the sudden cash flow. Of the estimated $ 1.14 billion that will be poured into athletes’ pockets in year 2, the NIL Opendorse platform predicts that nearly half will be spent on the grill.

The biggest and most important deals will go to individual athletes who successfully harnessed their exceptional skills, potential, influence and exposure – Young’s portfolio is believed to have surpassed $ 1 million before he made a shot for the Crimson Tide, while Alabama teammate Will Anderson has signed a NIL deal that allows one of the nation’s top linebackers to drive a $ 120,000 Porsche Cayenne GTS.

The Foundation, a third-party collective from the state of Ohio, says it has raised more than $ 500,000 for Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and cornerback Denzel Burke.

In Texas, running back Bijan Robinson has agreements with restaurants Raising Cane’s, C4 Energy drink and the sports streaming platform DAZN, while also partnering with a car dealership for the use of a Lamborghini. At Notre Dame, tight end Michael Mayer took advantage of his actions in the first round in deals with clothing brands Levi’s and Rhoback.

It is precisely the types of sponsorship deals and intimate relationships with boosters and businesses that once brought players on suspension and programs on probation.

“I’m sorry for older players who haven’t had the opportunity to get money from this, like Braxton Miller, Cardale Jones, Justin (Fields)” Stroud said of the Ohio State quarterbacks who preceded him.

“They should have made a massacre”, added Stroud, who also works with Value City Furniture, Designer Shoe Warehouse and trading card company Onyx Authenticated. “It’s only good that the players are in control now when it comes to money.”

Together with the agreements signed by the individual athletes, the collectives have become an important player in the NIL landscape. Some are organized by schools and others by supporters who act alone, but both distribute money raised by companies and donors for everything from sponsorships to meetings and charities.

The Foundation, a third-party collective from the state of Ohio, says it has raised more than $ 500,000 for Stroud, running back TreVeyon Henderson, wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and cornerback Denzel Burke. Texas Tech supporters have formed the collective The Matador Club, which says it is signing all 85 scholarship players and 20 participants on $ 25,000 contracts this season in exchange for appearing at club events and serving at the club. community.

“I think we are well within the seven figures with all our collectives”, said Morgan Frazier, a former Florida gymnast and now general counsel to Student Athlete NIL, who runs collectives at Penn State and several other schools.

When asked where most of the money goes, he replied: “Overall, definitely football”.

It’s nearly impossible to determine how much players earn from NIL agreements, in part because the reporting rules differ from state to state. The vast majority are relatively modest: perhaps $ 50 for a tweet or $ 100 for an autograph signature on platforms like Cameo, vidsig, and Engage. Bids rarely exceed $ 1,000.

But for players who are prominent in the selection programs, with NFL potential and a huge following on social media, the money on the table can be life-changing. Twelve college players have a valuation of at least $ 1 million entering this season, according to On3, a platform that uses an algorithm to account for things like social media reach to project NIL value.

More than 50 players have a valuation of at least $ 500,000, with the majority of those playing in the SEC and the Big Ten.

“Having the opportunity to change other people’s lives, that’s the beauty of NIL”, said Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, who founded Limitless NIL, believed to be the first agency created by an athlete to help other athletes. His clients include Nittany Lions receiver Ji’Ayir Brown.

“It’s not what we’re doing or what I’m doing”, Clifford said, “It’s about what Ji’Ayir came from as far as he is now, being able to impact a guy like that. And I am proud to say that he was our first boy to come aboard. “

Loot can come with a price. For one thing, players who may have already struggled to juggle classrooms and study rooms with practice sessions and movies now have to balance meetings, autograph sessions and other work.

“If you want to monetize or be rewarded for all the hard work (and) sacrifice you’re doing, that’s part of it”, said Deuce Vaughn of Kansas State, an All-American preseason. “I learned to read a contract. I have a marketing agent. I learned to talk to companies, to participate in teleconferences and things like that. “

Vaughn also recognized the additional pressure to perform: “With that money come expectations.”

Then there is the often flammable atmosphere of the changing rooms, where lines have always existed between those who have and those who have not. In the past, those could have been among walk-ons and scholarship players. Now, they could be between players who drive exotic cars or wear expensive jewelry and those looking to scrape together the rent.

“I know it might be a distraction”, Robinson said, when asked what it’s like to drive his Lamborghini to practice. “If a teammate raised it, I’d just joke, I’d say, ‘Oh, man, but it’s not like what you’re doing out there right now.’ Just not to mention yourself, because it’s not about you.

“If you’re not winning,” Robinson said, “None of us can get these NIL deals.”

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