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Men Behind USC’s University-Opposed NIL Collective Say It’s Full Steam Ahead

Men Behind USC’s University-Opposed NIL Collective Say It’s Full Steam Ahead article feature image
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Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images. Pictured: Ralen Goforth.

The past 14 months of the name, image and likeness era in college sports have been a wild ride.

Simple endorsement deals have evolved into millions of dollars rounded up by booster collectives to either try to — against current rules — draw a player to a school or keep him out of the transfer portal.

In some states, these collectives can’t even work in tandem with the schools.

There are figures like John Ruiz, who have come out of nowhere to — without any public approval from the school itself — emerge as self-proclaimed white knights of programs.

Ruiz has spent millions on University of Miami football and basketball players and justified it by making the deliverable an endorsement for his nascent medical information company, Life Wallet.

And then there’s what is happening at USC, where there’s a collective operating against the wishes of the university.

Earlier this month, the collective called Student Body Right, named after the sweep play popularized by former USC coach John McKay, declared its intentions to be able to pay a base salary of sorts to every player on the Trojans roster.

The problem? USC denounced it.

Why? One school of thought is the obvious — having someone not affiliated and not in contact with the university doing something for the school is a liability in and of itself.

The other thought is that USC wants it for itself.

In June, the athletic department struck a deal with an NIL company called Stay Doubted and launched BLVD LLC, with the idea to keep the NIL game in-house.

BLVD, a for-profit vehicle as opposed to Student Body Right, has a fundraising goal of $75 million by 2026, according to an investor’s presentation reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.

“USC had no previous awareness and no involvement in a donor-created NIL collective, and strongly discourage anyone from taking actions that could unintentionally violate NCAA bylaws,” athletic director Mike Bohn said in a statement. “We ask any donors who would like to support USC student-athletes through NIL to please work with BLVD so that all activities are conducted in compliance with state laws and USC policy.”

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Student Body Right — USC’s alternative NIL — is the brainchild of Florida businessman Dale Rech, who says he’s been a Trojans fan since 1955, and Brian Kennedy, a longtime booster whose name is on the USC practice field.

Rech told the Action Network that he’s never given money to the program, and doesn’t even have season tickets.

But, Rech says he’s given plenty to the program in non-official ways over the years.

Kennedy, meanwhile, stopped giving after USC didn’t hire interim head coach Ed Orgeron in 2013. USC went through Steve Sarkisian and Clay Helton amid average records while Orgeron went to LSU and won a national title.

Rech says that USC has been unfairly attacking his group by alleging they have nefarious motives that will land USC in more trouble and he’s sent a strongly worded legal letter, through an attorney, that they must stop.

The school was famously banned from the postseason for two years and lost scholarships for three years thanks to the Reggie Bush scandal.

Rech says he’s not targeting players and inducing them to come to USC — and that  everything he is doing is within California law.

“Why is USC the only university in the country to be against outside collectives?,” Rech asked. “If their model is so good, why hasn’t anybody else copied it?”

Rech will not say how much he has raised or any other names involved, but doesn’t think USC putting him down hurts the business.

“It hasn’t hurt us one bit,” Rech said. “They look everywhere else and see other schools have multiple collectives each with a different niche. Texas now has five, Florida is on the cusp of having four.”

It’s not like everything is out of USC’s control.

NCAA rules state that schools must approve NIL deliverables before money is handed out, so, if it gets that far, the school’s athletic department would have to review the deals, which Rech says is all charitable work. USC would likely not be able to turn that down.

Having a school denouncing a collective that continues to operate adjacent to it is hilarious, but par for the course in the NIL world, where institutions are losing their grip on player movement one day, one month at a time.

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