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How Athletes.Org fits into the 'inevitability of revenue sharing' on horizon

Eric Prisbellby:Eric Prisbell09/21/23


College sports power broker Jim Cavale describes the current state of play in college athletics as a triangle.

At the lower left corner are the athletes; at the lower right corner are college athletics leaders. At the top point of the triangle?

“The inevitability of revenue sharing,” Cavale told On3. “The question is: How do those groups go separately – because they’re not going to go there together – and sit at the table together, separately, to collectively bargain certain standards of media revenue sharing, medical coverage, scholarship protections, mental health resources, et cetera?”

Cavale founded INFLCR in 2017 knowing NIL would take hold in the coming years – so he created a solution for schools and athletes based on whatever the market evolved into. He recently launched his latest venture, Athletes.Org (AO), because he saw a need for athletes to be organized and sit at the negotiating table with college sports leaders in the years to come.

All signs point to a revenue-sharing model of some sort dramatically reshaping the college sports enterprise. The only questions are when and how.

With former Penn and NFL linebacker Brandon Copeland serving as co-founder and CEO of AO, the non-profit organization provides on-demand support to athletes navigating the college experience while providing a platform to speak on the future of college sports. AO is not a union. 

On3 is a media partner with Through the partnership, On3 will promote the free membership with Athletes.Org to On3 Elite Athletes, who will earn a badge when they sign up for AO.

Mindful of a coming revenue-sharing model, Cavale saw a need for athletes to be organized and sit at the table with college sports leaders to set standards for a variety of benefit categories, including media rights revenue. 

“For those categories, a standard can’t be set that’s fair and equitable for athletes if they’re not separately sitting at the table negotiating that,” Cavale said. “Right now what happens is people make decisions for them on what the best standard is. That needs to change and they need to speak into it.”

Athletes.Org will ‘go where the market goes’

On Thursday, Cavale shared how his vision for fits into the potential revenue-sharing model that many leading stakeholders – including himself – believe is on the horizon in the coming years. 

With, Cavale said, the first thing athletes need to do is organize into an association, which offers free on-demand support and access to pro bono professionals. Then they would separate into chapters – such as one for SEC football or Big Ten women’s volleyball, etc. – so they can begin conversations on what they deserve in a variety of benefit categories, including medical coverage and media rights revenue, in their sport in their conference.

Athletes.Org is starting with an association and chapters. But it is creating flexibility so if a union takes hold – where applicable – AO won’t be the organization to make it happen but it could have its chapters play a role in the beginning of that movement. If collective bargaining ultimately occurs, AO won’t necessarily be doing the collective bargaining, per se. But its chapters can be the environment where that happens. 

“It’s all about us being flexible to go where the market goes,” Cavale said. “It’s my job to organize the athletes give them value, and help them get informed to start to formulate their own argument based on their sport based on their conference for those things.”

On the college sports leaders’ side of the triangle, Cavale said the first phase is where many stakeholders are today: preservation. They want to maintain the status quo – if not turn back the clock – and prevent athletes from sharing in media revenue. 

The next phase is that AO is launching a college athletics leaders council – led by a prominent athletic director who used to work in the space. Cavale said several athletic directors have reached out to him essentially saying the same thing: “We’ve got to figure this out. This might be the last chance we’ve got – what can we do, how can we help?”

“For those folks, great, raise your hand and leave the preservation phase and jump into the AO council for college athletics leaders,” Cavale said. “Now we can get some of your feedback and thoughts to start getting your mind going on the model you know exists today versus the model that may exist tomorrow.”

Many college leaders think ‘revenue sharing is inevitable’

The petition phase comes next, where the college leaders are ready to sign their names and be willing to sit at the negotiating table with athletes in their respective conferences to talk about how they share media revenue. 

While the topic of revenue sharing remains the elephant in the room, an increasing number of college sports leaders, privately and publicly, acknowledge that it’s time to start modeling out what it would entail. Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe CastiglioneMountain West Conference Commissioner Gloria Nevarez and AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco are among those who have told On3 that now is the time to explore what a revenue-sharing model would look like.

To go further, if you surveyed every athletic director nationwide, Cavale said, especially in Division I, and asked anonymously – Is revenue sharing inevitable? – he believes more than 90% would say yes, “the writing is on the wall.”

He concurs.

“I think revenue sharing is inevitable,” Cavale said. “And if college athletics leaders don’t figure out the best solution for athletes to share in media revenue, I think the government will figure it out for them a la Johnson [v. NCAA] and the NLRB cases.”