Crimson and Cream collective could be solution to Oklahoma’s NIL frustrations

Jeremy Crabtree09/30/22
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(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Oklahoma message boards are filled with concerns from fans about the success – or lack thereof – on the NIL front for Sooner student-athletes. OU fans have seen how deals have impacted roster management at rivals Texas and Texas A&M and have been pleading for an alternative NIL collective option.

The wait might just be over for Sooner fans if the newly launched Crimson and Cream collective has its way.

Crimson and Cream was unveiled on Friday with a long list of former Sooner greats in multiple sports on its Advisory Board.  The collective’s Board of Directors also features some of the top business leaders in Oklahoma from companies like Cameron Financial Strategies, Viking Minerals, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., and Stevens Trucking.

Crimson and Cream is operated by Student Athlete NIL, the company that runs multiple successful collectives across the country such as Success with Honor at Penn State and Knights of The Raritan at Rutgers.

Crimson and Cream has ‘university support’

Student Athlete NIL CEO Jason Belzer said Crimson and Cream will follow the same model that was built at Penn State and Rutgers. For example, Success with Honor has struck triple-digit NIL deals with student-athletes in all of the varsity sports at Penn State.

“There are two sides to the collective,” Belzer said. “One is a 501(c)(3) and the other side is commercial. So, we’re planning on being able to bring opportunities to student-athletes through multiple funnels. But our main focus will be heavily on the commercial side, where there’s no cap on earning potential for student-athletes.

“We’ve put together a Board of Directors that includes a number of prominent alumni from the university. Some of them are former student-athletes that have strong ties back into the school in particular sports. We’re finalizing our student-athlete Advisory Board, but we have a number of former football players, basketball players, softball players and people involved in other sports.”

But maybe most importantly, Belzer says “the university is supporting us.”

“I’d say we have a great relationship with the university,” Belzer said. “We were fully transparent in our process of building the collective. We asked for advice for having the right people involved. Obviously, the university can’t directly be involved. But they were able to point us in the right direction for alumni and other individuals they thought would be good ambassadors for any type of program we wanted to build.”

Ryan Broyles, Destinee Martinez on Advisory Board

One of those ambassadors is former Sooner receiver Ryan Broyles, a two-time All-American that attended Norman High School and was one of the most coveted recruits in the country back in 2007.

“I’m excited to be a part of this new era of NIL and help empower Oklahoma student-athletes to maximize their off-the-field opportunities,” Broyles said.

“A great deal of former college athletes have been exploited throughout their career, and now current student-athletes finally have an opportunity to benefit from their work product. Crimson and Cream is focused on ensuring all Sooners can make the most of their Name, Image and Likeness while in Norman.”

Also joining Broyles on the board is former OU softball star Destinee Martinez, who is now Perfect Game’s National Director of Softball Operations.

“Our student-athletes are so deserving of an enhanced experience at OU through their Name, Image and Likeness,” she said. “I am most excited for our female student-athletes to get their name out there and create a fan base for things they may be passionate about off the court or the field. I am proud to be a part of a team that will give back to the university that gave so much to me.”

How will this collective be different?

Crimson and Cream is the third-known collective in the Oklahoma market.

A group of Oklahoma businessmen, community leaders, alumni and leaders in the faith-based community partnered with Hall of Fame Coach Barry Switzer in early 2022 to 1Oklahoma. Plus, in July the Norman NIL Club was launched by YOKE. The Norman NIL Club allows fans to donate directly to financially support 70-plus Oklahoma football players.

The Norman NIL Club says it has around $25,700 in monthly donations and nearly 900 active members. Yet, many OU insiders anticipated 1Oklahoma to be the collective of choice because of Switzer’s involvement. But sources have told On3 that 1Oklahoma’s “lukewarm success” has had Sooner athletic officials searching for an alternative option. Fans have also flooded social media and message boards to express great frustrations over the lack of known deals with student-athletes, especially in football, and how it’s impacted OU’s efforts for roster maintenance.

“Our job is to create as many opportunities for student-athletes as possible,” Belzer said. “We’re working for all student-athletes. We’re not just focused on football. Oklahoma has many great sports, including basketball, women’s basketball and softball, which is the No. 1 program in the country.

“Our goal is to be able to provide and generate opportunities for one of the largest and most loyal fan bases in the country. So, we’ll be instituting all of the programs that we built at Penn State, Rutgers and elsewhere at OU.”

Oklahoma fanbase ‘hungry’ for NIL opportunity

Belzer said Crimson and Cream will soon announce agreements with student-athletes. If it does indeed follow the success that was seen at Penn State, OU football players will be heavily involved. So, will players from its national-championship softball program.

“I think the OU fan base is hungry for an opportunity to engage with student-athletes,” Belzer said. “It is the game in town. It is the pro sport in Oklahoma. There’s going to be an incredible amount of support. We’ve already seen a tremendous amount of business interest and people that want to figure out how to engage. They just really haven’t had a conduit to be able to do that yet.”