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Light the Tower Collective: An NIL Story

Folks, we have a collective. You may have read the DRC’s story on the Light The Tower Collective, or perhaps you listened to the discussion with Rick Villarreal about the same. A, well, collection, of UNT supporters got together to fill a need. They reached out to businesss person, Dentonite, and former athletic director Rick Villarreal about running it. “I heard about it about a month ago.”

We are asked to forgive the missteps — the interviews and discussions without a website, the questions that are unanswered by more than “just wait and see” and the anemic social media situation. To be fair, these aren’t fatal mistakes. You can collect money via phone calls and handshakes especially if everyone already knows everyone.

We wrote previously on the NIL situation at North Texas, and what it would look like. I encourage you to re-read it to get a sense of everything. Quoted here is what I think is a rough guide to starting an NIL Collective and we’ll rate LTTC on it:

  1. You pay the $350 or so to register your LLC (or whatever you want, I would go with an LLC). 
  2. You start the process to apply for 501(3c) non-profit status — oh you didn’t know this was how it works? Ha. 
  3. You spring for a nice website — $3K if you are doing it right and completely outsourcing it. Anything less and you might have some issues but you can shop for these costs — this will tell your story, and is very important because … 
  4. You need to solicit donations. The lifeblood of the collective is CASH and you need to get it. Start by kicking in your own cash — $10K ought to be a good start. Your money should be in a business bank account and if you didn’t already know this you probably should press pause and just wait for someone else to do this and become and individual contributor. Or just write a check to the Mean Green Club. 
  5. Before soliciting donations — this is really important but I know you wanted to know the above stuff first — you need to figure out how this organization will run. How will funds be distributed? I know you are thinking “to athletes” sure, but what percentage? What will be the bylaws governing your allocation of funds toward the Endeavors and how much will be required to be allocated per year? I am talking like, “at least 50% of Funds will be allocated toward NIL (or whatever you call it in your high minded language)”. For any funds that are not immediately allocated, what is the investment strategy beyond “stick it in the savings account, I suppose”. Some kind of long-term strategy for investment would be smart to self-fund the organization. This *could* come later, or your brand could be something like “all the cash goes directly to them” but that means a larger portion of your organization’s life will be spent on making sure solicitations are made. You are making a big choice here. 
  6. Build Relationships — I mentioned the above syncing with coaches and how that is not allowed, but getting to know the coaches and the kinds of players and people they *would* target is maybe helpful in making sure this isn’t a hindrance to everyone. If the business plan isn’t “just give cash to players and have them do a social media post” there is a lot of coordinating involved here. Working with businesses to help them draft NIL deals, matching up athletes and businesses, maybe doing the “building leaders” portion or whatever you said you were going to do on the website. Unless, you, dear reader, are an expert in NIL language and will be guiding everyone yourself, you probably need to find the people that can do this. This isn’t just sending out a DM or taking someone’s word at it, but like, really vetting them. You probably should know something about it to be able to vet them, but of course you knew that already, I’m sure.

For (1) (2)– the LTTC has performed these actions (we don’t know about the second, because it is a process, not like a certificate. For (3) they say it is forthcoming. Cool. It happens. Getting RV on the job to get the necessaries running is how you get these kinds of things done, and without a timeline of events we’ll just go ahead and credit him for getting it done. For the next one (4) I think this is accomplished. The board is made up of some usual suspects in NT support circles, so I don’t think they are lacking cash. (5) It sounds like they are opening things up to solicit donations, and take money from people, etc. I imagine the website will have the bulk of this information, and the one-on-ones with the CEO for the major contributors will do the rest.

Personally, I do not want to contribute to a money-pit, nor be solicited for donations for the rest of my time on this earth. I prefer some kind of fund that I can contribute to, but is managed and growing through some prudent investments. The collective can then pay out some NIL funds through the main fund at some predetermined rate or something.

Finally, (6). Villarreal discussed with the AD and had meetings and whatnot, according to his interviews (and conversation with MGN).

So What Does It Mean?

LTTC being formed and started is a good thing. It is independent, and non-profit and whatnot, but it does not mean it won’t compete with other NIL opportunities. From what I am told, they have a close relationship with vendors and key personnel that will make the running of the collective easier than it would otherwise be.

Given it is run by a group of likeminded individuals, it will be run with an eye for their preferences. That is to say, you and I might disagree with some of the money-making, money-spending, and money-handling choices but that is for another day. Until we know more about how this is funded, or what the agreements will be once funding happens we can only speculate.

The baseline is that having an NIL collective is nearly like having a weight room. Everyone has one and it is weird if you do not. An important box was checked here, and if we collectively hate it, something can be done.

The fact is that the lifeblood of college football is money and NIL is simply a new way of organizing that money. Boosters previously donated to the program directly, and often shuttled cash under the metaphorical table. NIL allows more direct payment and above-board (again metaphorical board) interactions. There are still rules and laws against inducements and payment for play. In Texas, for example, the coaches and university cannot be a part of NIL deals. They have set up a lot of systems and programs to advice athletes on their options under the guise of protecting them from scams 1 and NIL collectives cannot use university athletic logos etc.

Like anything else, however, it is changing all the time. There are proposals and licensing agreements whereby athletes *can* use the marks, if the deals they sign are with some preferred partner. The short and sweet of it all is that it is business. There is no full-proof way to conduct it. There is risk. There is reward. There are competitors.

UNT’s alumni and boosters are in the competition, now. That is step one.

  1. I thought college was good for that?

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