‘The Wild, Wild West’: The Collective and the future of NIL deals

FAU will join multiple universities in forming a collective to facilitate its student-athletes on financial support for NIL deals.


Paul Leachman

N’kosi Perry makes his way to the end zone for a touchdown against Louisiana on Sep. 10, 2022.

Maddox Greenberg, Business Manager

Florida Atlantic University is making history by forming its own collective called “The Owl Collective”. The university joins over 120 colleges and universities in North America in having its own collective, shaping the landscape of NIL – name, image and likeness – sponsorship and deals.

“The Collective was created quickly in order to have this position in the market to help the college athletes right now,” said Bryan Rammel, founder of the Owl Collective. “And ultimately, right now, the NCAA just allowed NILs to happen less than 12 to 18 months ago. So, it’s kind of like the wild, wild west.”

In 2021, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allowed student-athletes and businesses to make deals based on the athletes’ name, image and likeness. Since then, star athletes have signed deals with companies and local businesses, earning some of these athletes millions of dollars. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has signed NIL deals from commercials for Dr. Pepper and others.

Since the NCAA allowed collegiate athletes to make profit from their deals, it has been difficult to organize this new shakeup. 

Universities began forming collectives amidst the confusion to facilitate sponsorships from businesses while protecting students, such as Syracuse University and the University of Georgia.

With FAU joining the American Athletic Conference (AAC) next year, there will be more televised games on networks such as ESPN.

Rammel has been connecting with local businesses in Boca Raton with his experience in marketing and consulting to help, and getting in touch with coaches on campus. 

“[The Owl Collective wants] to take advantage of NIL here in Boca Raton, a city that is very affluent. Lots of networking, lots of money, lots of opportunities,” Rammel said. “It wants to be positioned in this NIL market with all the local businesses because South Florida, at the end of the day, has more businesses than anyone else, I would say.”

Rammel has gained support from former FAU players, boosters and alumni. Boosters are individuals who have connections to help the university with money and resources.

The Owl Collective helps student-athletes own their assets, earn compensation for challenges, NFT (non-fungible token) creation, and more. 

“We want to make [the student-athletes] aware that someone is out in the community looking [out] for them on their behalf,” Rammel said. 

Other resources have emerged to assist students such as OpenDorse Ready, a tech platform that helps student-athletes know the best day and time to post on social media to grow their brand, and the FAU Athletics Compliance Office, which helps collegiate athletes follow the NCAA’s strict rules regarding NILs – listing the deal, the job, and the payment for that sponsorship. 

“[OpenDorse] is where brands and student-athletes can both get on, and our compliance office can see everything going on to protect our student-athletes from inadvertently doing something or not documenting something well enough that they inadvertently jeopardize their own eligibility,” FAU’s Athletics Director Brian White said. 

Cara Simpson, women’s track and field athlete, benefits through OpenDorse. She has 25 NIL deals, with companies like She Makes Club, a paper-crafting business Simpson helped start, and Ryder, a fitness clothing brand.  

“I am very well organized. So, when it comes to NIL deals, I set aside certain days and times when I’m only focused on that and only working on those things. Outside of that, I’m fully focused on my sport and academics,” Simpson said. “It hasn’t done anything to hinder performance or academics, or grades, or anything.”

Star quarterback N’Kosi Perry also signed with NIL deals. He was the first collegiate athlete in North America to sign with an alcoholic beverage company, Islamorada Beer, based in the Florida Keys.

N’Kosi Perry smiles during the 2022 Spring Game on April 9, 2022. “As far as knowing what I’m doing and knowing where I wanted to go with the ball, I felt great [today]. I was really comfortable,” Perry said after the game. (Eston Parker III)

Perry also signed up with First Round Management (FRM), which helps athletes with media training, creative services like editing and videography, strategic alliances with different clothing brands, draft preparation, and more.

“I think it is a great start for the future,” Perry said regarding the benefits of working with a management company.

Resources like Daniel Lust, advisor to the NIL Pro Bono Project, focus on the legal aspects of NIL deals. Lust and his team of attorneys educate New York law students about NIL deals so they may get involved in that aspect of the law. 

FAU also began its own marketplace, which offers a “quick, seamless opportunity for businesses, sponsors and supporters to reach out directly to FAU student-athletes regarding NIL opportunities in accordance with state laws and NCAA regulations,” according to a newsletter the university published on Nov. 8, 2022. 

The Owl Collective is specifically for FAU student-athletes. OpenDorse Ready’s contract with FAU lasts from Nov. 1, 2023, to Oct. 31, 2024.

The NCAA Division 1 Board of Directors recently initiated the do’s and don’ts for universities involvement with NILs, from offering connections between student-athletes and sponsors to forbidding universities giving free services to their student-athletes unless those services are given to the general student body.

While companies are signing student-athletes to be a part of NILs, Lust has some doubts. Originally, student-athletes picked institutions based on location and playing time. 

“[Some students] don’t want money to be factored in. But in the last year, that money is certainly influencing a lot of decisions,” Lust said.

With this new chapter for student-athletes, Perry spoke for the majority.

“We felt like athletes before and we don’t think that we got paid enough for the amount of time that we put in because not only are we students, but we’re athletes as well. So it’s like two full time jobs. So actually being paid something is better than nothing,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found physically on the distribution boxes around campus or digitally through our Issuu page.

Maddox Greenberg is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or DM via Facebook @maddox greenberg.