By Michael Kinney
If you were to stroll around a Power 5 campus on a normal Saturday in the Fall, one of the first things you will see is a plethora of jerseys. Doesn’t matter what conference or region of the country, fans wearing jerseys to football games is a time-honored tradition that goes back decades.
It’s also a tradition that has allowed institutions to rake in millions of dollars in revenue that they didn’t have to share with the players on the field.
That includes programs like Oklahoma, which currently has jerseys selling for as much as $119 each online in The Sooner Shop. None of that money saw its way into the hands of the athlete who wore them in games.
However, with the installation last year of NILs (Name, Image, Likeness) for college athletes, the world of college sports changed. NILs allow college athletes to make money off their name, image, and likeness, which now includes jerseys.
In the past, football jerseys would have the school’s name and a number on them. That does not include the jerseys of former players.
But starting this fall, the jerseys that are sold can have the names of current college athletes on them.
A partnership between Fanatics and OneTeam Players will now enable schools to sell jerseys with current players’ names on them with the players getting a share of the profit.
The deal will provide current college football players an opportunity to be compensated for inclusion in a broad-scale, multi-school jersey customization program.
“As the commercial landscape continues to develop for college athletes, their collective value is only beginning to be realized,” said Malaika Underwood, SVP of Licensing at OneTeam Partners. “Our focus has been on creating broad-scale licensed product programs that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without group rights. The Fanatics jersey program, which will cut across schools and eventually men’s and women’s sports, will give fans the ability to buy the jersey of their favorite college athlete and is exactly the type of thing we can help bring to market. What we bring on the athlete side layers onto Fanatics’ strong existing partnerships with most major colleges and universities.”
Details of how the program will work are limited, but as of now, only Oklahoma, Penn State, LSU and Washington have publicly stated they will be part of the new program.
The second step is for players on those teams to opt into the program. If they do, they can be compensated.
“For the first time ever, fans will be able to purchase authentic jerseys of their favorite LSU Tigers, and student-athletes will directly benefit from every sale,” said Director of LSU Athletics Scott Woodward. “We cannot wait to see our jerseys on the sidelines and in the stands inside Tiger Stadium next season, and we eagerly anticipate additional player co-branded products for our student-athletes across all sports.”
None of the schools or companies involved have given details on exactly how the program will work.
One of the biggest questions that remain unanswered is how players will earn money from the sales. Will it be a giant pool that every player who opts into the program gets an equal share of or will their cut be based solely on individual sales of their jersey? If it is the latter, which I believe it will be, that once again leaves non-quarterbacks or non-stars with basically nothing, which is how most NILs worked last year.
The other question is what happens to those who choose not to be part of it? Can they make their own deals and continue to use the school name and jersey as well?
While there are still many details that need to be fleshed out, proponents of the new jersey program are calling it a game-changer.
“Broad-scale group rights for college athletes is the only pathway to bring this program forward,” said Derek Eiler, Executive VP of Fanatics College. “OneTeam is the perfect partner because of their group licensing expertise and their thoughtful approach in college. Aligning with OneTeam was a critical step to develop a scalable and efficient college football jersey program. We are excited to create an even deeper connection between schools, college athletes, and fans through licensed merchandise.”
Michael Kinney media