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Ohio State and Oregon had NIL budgets of $23 million, says Nebraska AD

New Nebraska AD Troy Dannen spoke to Huskers fans from the future recently. 

Speaking to The 1890 Initiative, the collective supporting Nebraska's NIL efforts, Dannen laid out how he thinks the next two years in college athletics will play out in light of the House v. NCAA settlement currently working its way through the legal system. 

"Let me tell you something about NIL: It is not going to last forever. Here's what I think is going to happen, and I'm pretty sure I'm right," Dannen said, in a video captured by the TikTok account 247.huskers. "There will be an antitrust settlement this year in the courts.

Part of the antitrust settlement, 1890 (Nebraska's collective) is going to get banned. The collectives are going to go away. What's going to be replaced is athletic departments, revenue sharing with our athletes. In the budget of our athletic department right now, we have a $20 million placeholder in two years to share money with our athletes. It's in the budget right now. There's three schools in the country, I think, that have that in their budget right now: Georgia, Texas and us. 

"We've got great advantages here. We don't have debt; we have great reserves, we have a fan base, facilities, we have great advantages to addressing what lies ahead. Let's talk about what happens in the next two years. NIL's not coming in-house, it's going to be replaced by something else. At Washington, our football program last year had an NIL budget of about $10 million and went to the national championship game. Oregon's is 23; Ohio State's is 23. Ours here is not even 10. 

"We have the facilities, we have the coaches, we have the fans. In the next couple years, we'll be fighting an even fight. Right now we're not fighting an even fight," Dannen concluded. 

If I'm a prospective 1890 donor hearing Dannen say all this, I can't believe my good fortune. You mean to tell me collectives like this will suddenly become illegal, all the money Ohio State, Oregon and others are currently using to tilt the playing field in their direction will go away, teams will no longer be allowed to money-whip players and, best of all, all the money Nebraska needs to fund the payroll, it already has? Where do I sign up?

There's a great unanswered question that leads me to believe the future Dannen prophesied is too good to be true from Nebraska's perspective: How, exactly, are we ensuring that collectives will soon become illegal? What police force out there is going to enforce that players make $20 million and only $20 million? 

After all, there's a reason NIL exists: there's a large, previously untapped and previously illegal market for the services of elite college athletes. The Caitlin Clarks and the Caleb Williamses have national appeal as commercial pitchmen, but hundreds and thousands of players far less famous than those two have value simply by being college athletes.

As silly as the current, potentially temporary arrangement is, where fans are asked to buy tickets and donate to pay coaches and build facilities and are now also asked to donate to make payroll in football, basketball and other sports, it clearly works for some programs. Remember when Ryan Day told a group of Columbus business leaders that it would take $13 million a year to fund a competitive roster at Ohio State? Two years later, that number has (reportedly) almost doubled. Clearly, there's a subset of people out there willing to pony up to ensure Ohio State has a better team than the competition. 

And soon, that $23 million slush fund will just... vanish? Says who? What army is going to enforce that?

Remember, the $23 million Ohio State and Oregon reportedly pay out is just for the football team. No one's quite sure how these $20 million payments (actually closer to $22 million) will break out, but chances are that it will have to be split somewhat equally between men and women, and the football team will have to share with the basketball team and perhaps others. Not all of that $20 million will be straight cash, either. 

Anticipating all this, some collectives are already preparing to pivot into "marketing agencies," funded directly by the university they support, to arrange legal ways to put money in their slot receiver's pocket.

“Any effort to try to eliminate what’s been created by collectives has a significant risk of violating antitrust laws and the protections of the Sherman Act,” one executive in the collective industry told Yahoo Sports. “You can be certain that we are following things closely and have a team ready to enforce the rights in court if necessary.”

Even if the NCAA and Congress find a way to structure an antitrust law that officially outlaws collectives and the like... it's not as if booster cash wasn't finding its way into players' pockets prior to 2021. These last three years have simply cemented how strong this previously-illicit sector of the college football economy truly is.

If I was a prospective 1890 Initiative donor listening to my AD speak, I'm nodding my head while keeping my wallet close by. If Nebraska wants to be competitive moving forward, the Huskers are still going to need it. 

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