Ohio State and Ryan Day have taken the big-picture approach to the NIL Era of college football.
The Buckeyes have stayed active as they’ve rolled out agreements with The Brandr Group and Opendorse. Their athletes have not had any problems landing deals — CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba recently signed on as “style ambassadors” with Express.
But on Thursday morning in front of 100 members of the Columbus business community and potential NIL donors, the Ohio State head coach unveiled his boldest strategy yet: putting a price tag on how much it will take to keep the Buckeyes competitive.
The head coach believes $13 million will keep Ohio State at the top of college football. From conversations with recruits and families, Day and his staff have cobbled together a blueprint of what other schools are offering.
The figure does not encompass the 85-man roster, as pointed out by Cleveland.com‘s Doug Lesmerises. Instead, roughly $550,000 a year needs to go to the 26 players Ohio State needs to secure a national title.
The businesses gathered as the athletic department unveiled an NIL Corporate Ambassador Program. Run through the athletic department, players will be compensated as businesses can use them as endorsers and also provide education opportunities.
Day, athletic director Gene Smith and Carey Hoyt, the senior associate athletic director charged with leading the school’s NIL efforts, held a panel and did not hide from the truths college football is facing.
Smith referenced the schools that are entering in “pay-to-play” agreements, which have been on the rise since one unnamed five-star prospect in the Class of 2023 signed a contract with an unnamed school’s collective that could pay him more than $8 million by his junior year of college.
“Unscrupulous characters are good at what they do, and it’s always been that way,” Smith said, per Cleveland.com.
The Buckeyes will lean on local businesses, and they have two collectives they can work with. But Day did not shy from the fact of how quickly a player can be out the door in this new era of college football.
Each player on the Ohio State roster who enters the transfer portal will be offered NIL deals. That’s a fact. Players cannot be paid off their performance on the field, and they can’t sign a contract pinning them to staying in Columbus. But the Buckeyes can hold on to those players thanks to building a bak own bank of NIL opportunities.
“One phone call, and they’re out the door,” Day said, per Cleveland.com. “We cannot let that happen at Ohio State. I’m not trying to sound the alarm, I’m just trying to be transparent about what we’re dealing with.”
Ohio State is never going to be the program setting the extreme in NIL. That means Ryan Day and the Buckeyes have to adapt and become major players in the changing landscape.
Step one? Amassing $13 million to execute the plan.