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Ohio State shows NIL teeth with massive transfer portal success

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos01/22/24


Pete Nakos Full Interview with Andy Staples | Transfer Portal: Ohio State Revamping, Alabama's Next Moves | 01.21.24

Ryan Day made his pitch in June 2022 to the Columbus business community that a $13 million NIL budget would keep Ohio State at the top of the sport.

The Buckeyes have not hit that exact number, but they’ve found major success over the last few weeks in the transfer portal. They landed Kansas State quarterback Will Howard and Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins. In the last few days, Ohio State has scooped up Alabama’s Caleb Downs and Julian Sayin.

Downs, a former five-star recruit and No. 1 player in the portal, was thought to be a Georgia lock – until he wasn’t. The SEC Freshman of the Year announced his commitment on Friday night. 

With all the offseason success has come comments on Ohio State’s NIL collectives. After struggling at a few points over the last few years, the Buckeyes have figured it out and are operating in the top echelon of NIL, sources have told On3. The 1870 Society is the official NIL collective of Ohio State, while The Foundation has assisted the football program, too.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith stayed quiet on NIL for most of the first year, opting to see how the market would mature and evolve. He’s since thrown his support behind both organizations.

The 1870 Society launched this past spring and has signed several top portal acquisitions, including Judkins and Alabama center Seth McLaughlin. The Foundation was one of the first accounts on social media to announce Downs had committed to the Buckeyes. The organization’s website even went down for a few minutes because of an increase in traffic.

“Can’t thank everyone enough for all of your support,” said Brian Schottenstein, the co-founder of The Foundation. “We’re doing this only for the love of Buckeye Nation and the student-athletes giving back to our great community!”

Buckeyes’ NIL operating in top echelon of college football

NIL collectives have become commonplace across college sports but especially at the top programs in college football. Operating a high-functioning collective has become necessary to retain and attract talent, with the top-funded organizations operating on a budget of $10 million and more. Most sit between the $4 to $8 million range.

Following three consecutive losses to Michigan and seeing the Wolverines win the national title earlier this month, Ohio State has fully embraced the transfer portal, using the portal to refine and upgrade its roster, setting the stage for major expectations in the 2024 season. Winning in free agency comes with a strong NIL infrastructure, which has woken up in the last 10 weeks.

Speaking with sources, it’s clear the Buckeyes are operating in the top echelon of college football. When On3 released its second edition of the Top 20 Most Ambitious NIL Collectives this past summer, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Texas and Oregon sat at the top. All four continue to sit near the top of the field, along with Florida State, Ole Miss and Louisville.

Ohio State has clearly crashed the party, too.

Landing two of the top quarterbacks available and the defining running back in this transfer portal cycle does not just simmer down to facilities and the opportunity to win championships anymore. Making competitive financial offers now matters.

The Buckeyes aren’t messing around.

Ryan Day has restructured his coaching staff, headlined by the offensive coordinator hire in Bill O’Brien. He’s used the portal to put together a team that can win a national championship. Day has retained his roster, convincing a slew of draft-eligible players to return for a final year. New athletic director Ross Bjork has established himself with strong fundraising and NIL success at Texas A&M, which will only help the Buckeyes.

Experts will say it is a national championship or bust this fall in Columbus, but those are expected with a stacked roster with NIL partially to thank.