Ohio State NIL collectives The Foundation, O Foundation announce merger

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos02/09/23


There is change coming to the Ohio State NIL collective market.

The Foundation and The O Foundation announced Thursday morning on Twitter the decision to join forces and merge. What that looks like remains to be seen, but consolidation is become a popular trend in the collective landscape.

Started by Cardale Jones and Brian Schottenstein in January 2022, the organization has signed more than 40 athletes across football and basketball. It secured $550,000 worth of deals for four players earlier this offseason. And at the collective’s season kickoff event in August, 13 experiences were auctioned off for a combined $140,000. That’s in addition to the cost of admission and sold out tables, which were sold at $10,000 a pop.

The O Foundation joined the collective market a little later, launching this past October. Founded by Ron Stokes, a former captain and current on-air analyst for the Ohio State radio network, the focus has specifically been on basketball.

Both collectives are registered as 501(C)(3)s, meaning donations are tax deductible.

“We’re in this for the same reasons,” Jones told On3 in a phone interview. “Why not come together and use all our resources for the common goal we’re trying to attack and help players in the world of name, image and likeness.”

What the infrastructure of the two collectives moving forward will look like is unknown. In the announcement, fans were encouraged to visit both websites and continue to donate. Several donor and fan events appear to be in the works, too.

Consolodating can be a win, though. With a one-stop shop for fans to donate, it can streamline the process of raising funds.

“We’re joining forces,” Jones said. “I don’t know how it’s going to look on paper. But, you know, we’re just going to continue to bring our resources together to one brand, one entity, to help people understand and answer some of the questions they may when it comes to collectives.”

Importance of raising funds

NIL collectives have surfaced at nearly every Division I school in the first 19 months of NIL. And the word collective, which has no ulterior meaning, has become synonymous with college athletics’ new era. The race is to stockpile the most cash to distribute to current players so recruits know what they can make once they enroll at the college.  

The Foundation has set the precedent that NIL opportunities will come at Ohio State. The collective held held a signing event at Schottenstein‘s house in January, welcoming five of Ohio State’s 11 mid-year enrollees to the Buckeyes-focused NIL collective. With a photoshoot set up on Schottenstein’s indoor basketball court, Carnell TateJermaine MathewsJelani ThurmanNoah Rogers and Malik Hartford each signed their contracts while checks were cut.

“We’re working on a way more to be more transparent with some things and how we operate,” Jones said. “There’s no right or wrong way to go about things. We listen to our supporters, we listen to the fanbase on what they want to see, what they want us to do. When it comes to support and how they want us to be structured, to make them feel more comfortable, to support us and to donate. So it’s extremely important [to donate]. Not just us, but the longevity of Ohio State.

Support from Ohio State is nonexistent

Ohio State athletics has been slow to embrace the collectives in the Columbus market. Athletic director Gene Smith threw his support behind The Foundation and The O Foundation back in early December, along with the Cohesion Foundation, which is a partner of Buckeye athletes.

Earning the nod as the go-to collective from a school’s athletic department has become a growing trend in college athletics since the NCAA released new guidance in October. Across the country, athletic directors have released videos promoting preferred collectives. It is an effective way to guide boosters to donate to help the facilitation of NIL deals.

The Foundation has been vocal on social media about the need for more support from Smith and Ohio State. Jones does not see that changing any time soon, even with the merger.

“Our focus cannot continue to be on beating a dead horse,” he said. “I honestly doubt it. They’re clear what their stance on name, image and likeness is and when it comes to collectives. Even though they say certain things publicly, they have yet to really have actions behind any of those public statements that make one thing that they support collectives.

“With all that being said, we’re just going to continue to really work with The O Foundation and provide opportunities for our student-athletes.”