PowerMizzou - The Next Step: Missouri's NIL collective goes public
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The Next Step: Missouri's NIL collective goes public

How much does your collective have?

What’s a collective?

Do you even college football, bro?

Name, image and likeness is the currency of college football in 2022. When it became permissible for the first time last year for college athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses, such funds immediately became the best way to keep current players at a fan's favorite school and attract potential players to it in the future.

But any idea that NIL was going to be a local restaurant exchanging free food for a tweet or a local car deal offering a few hundred bucks for a commercial quickly went out the window. Enter the collective.

A collective, simply, is a fund to which fans and donors can contribute. The collective is then in charge of disbursing the accrued funds to current players through NIL agreements that are approved by the school’s compliance department.

Missouri has had a collective for quite some time. In fact, Greg Steinhoff, the Chief Executive Officer of that collective, said Mizzou was one of the first schools to form such a body. But Wednesday marks the first day Advancing Missouri Athletes has been open to the public.

AMA was formed by a small number of high-dollar, high-influence athletic department donors. For the first few months under the new rules, the collective operated behind the scenes with the influence of just a handful of such donors.

“A few Missouri fans got together a year ago and put together a fund and we ended up with the 15th best (football) recruiting class in America,” Steinhoff said. “It’s not that we’re behind the eight ball. People perceive we are because we haven’t been public, but we’ve got a track record of being able to do this.”

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Thursday marks the next step as the collective has launched a website and opened donations up to the public. The collective now has three paid employees. The salaries of those three, including former Mizzou hoops star Laurence Bowers, who serves as AMA’s Executive Director, as well as all operating costs, are being covered by the founding members of the collective. Now they’re seeking donations, large and small. Every penny of those donations will go directly to Mizzou athletes through NIL deals.

“This is called a collective for a reason. It’s going to be a collective effort. In order for us to be competitive in the SEC, we’re going to need every fan that wears black and gold,” Bowers said. “I want everybody to understand the importance of NIL in that even a little bit goes a long way. I think we can be competitive, but it’s going to come down to the desire, the admiration and the will of people to contribute to AMA.”

“We are in the SEC, we’re competing with the big boys,” Steinhoff said. “We can choose to compete, and that means take advantage of this opportunity for all of us to vest in the team and be a part of what we see on the field or on the court and we can go for it. Or we can choose to disengage and if we do that it’s not gonna be good for our athletic teams or the University, the community, so on and so on.

“We can compete or we can give up.”

Bowers took the role of Executive Director with Advancing Missouri Athletes.
Bowers took the role of Executive Director with Advancing Missouri Athletes. (PowerMizzou.com)

That’s Bowers’ sole focus now. He took the job with AMA a few months ago and has spent most of his waking moments since discussing NIL and its implications with potential donors.

“Back in the times when I was here we experienced a lot of success. I know firsthand what this place can be and how exciting it is to play in front of a sold out crowd,” Bowers said. “Number one, it puts me back in the mix to help my alma mater, but number two, it gets my competitive juices flowing.”

AMA is starting by focusing on deals for Missouri’s football and men’s basketball players. They hope as the fund grows to be able to branch out to other sports. The “team” includes Steinhoff, a volunteer CEO (“you can be a CEO, too, if you want to,” he jokes) who has previously served as the Director of Economic Development for the state of Missouri for three years and has spent the last 12 years working at Veterans United in Columbia. It also includes Bowers and former football player Bud Sasser, who deals directly with Mizzou athletes and assists in setting up deals as the collective's Chief Operating Officer. AMA also has a social media specialist and an attorney who handles the execution of the contracts and makes sure everything is done above board through the school’s compliance department and Opendorse, its NIL partner for athletes.

So, how do fans join the effort? AMA’s website launched on Thursday. It features both a business portal and an individual portal. AMA is not a 501c3 company, so individual donations are not tax deductible. That’s why Bowers says if contributors have the option of donating as a business, they are encouraged to do so. But every fan has the option of pitching into the fund as an individual. Once the donation is made, it is up to the collective to distribute that money as it sees fit to best benefit Mizzou and its players.

“There has to be trust. I know that’s a very strong word to put out there when you’re dealing with someone else’s money,” Bowers said. “But we only want what’s best for the school.”

For now, the coaches cannot assist in directing how the money from AMA is distributed. But that will change before the football season starts. The Missouri legislature passed a bill—following the lead of Tennessee—to allow coaches to be involved in the discussion of how NIL funds are used. That means a coach or other school personnel can assist the collective by telling it which players may need a bit of financial help or what it may take to be competitive in keeping a player on campus. Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed SB 718 into law this morning. It will go into effect on August 28th.

Former Mizzou offensive lineman Kurtis Gregory helped push an NIL bill through the state legislature this spring
Former Mizzou offensive lineman Kurtis Gregory helped push an NIL bill through the state legislature this spring (Twitter @KurtisGregory51)

“That will just open up another line of communication. What we do will really become a lot more transparent with the coaches,” Bowers said. “That will be great for everybody involved.”

Back to the original question, how much does the collective have? It’s not something AMA is advertising.

“We’re not in the business of boasting or bragging or putting out smokescreens,” Bowers said. “Sharing numbers of what guys make, that’s their business. The last thing we want to do is cause division in locker rooms.”

There are a lot of numbers that have been thrown out across the country over the last few months. They’re mind-boggling — if they’re true.

“You’re hearing all kinds of wild information around the country about what different collectives are doing,” Steinhoff said. “All we can do where we are today is shoot for the moon in how we can help coach Drinkwitz and coach Gates.”

The cynic — and there are plenty of them — will read that as Missouri not wanting to publicize the number because it isn’t big enough. But Bowers and Steinhoff both feel deeply that Mizzou can compete in this space.

“We have one major University in a state of six million people that’s in the SEC and we have the financial base and the support is there,” Steinhoff said. “We just have to get everybody to recognize it, take ownership of it and be a part of it.”

“I feel really good about the fact that we are the fourth largest GDP in the SEC,” Drinkwitz said when asked last week about Missouri’s ability in NIL. “I feel really good about the fact that we have passionate fans, feel really good about the business leaders of our community trying to figure out what's the best way to help our program be successful. And I feel like there's a lot of NIL opportunities in not only St. Louis, Kansas City which are two top 50 media markets in the country, also with Springfield. I mean, I feel good about the opportunities when it all comes together.”

Dennis Gates and C.Y. Young are in their first year at Mizzou leading the basketball efforts.
Dennis Gates and C.Y. Young are in their first year at Mizzou leading the basketball efforts. (Gabe DeArmond)

Or, to paraphrase Sasser, why not Missouri?

“I think at some point we have to get rid of this mentality that we are so behind and that everybody else’s situation is so much better than what we have and see the good that we have that’s going on and build off of it,” the former Mizzou wide receiver said. “Everything that you want to accomplish in your life, you can do it at Mizzou. For the fans who believe that we’re behind or never going to catch up, we should turn and ask them what have you done to alter that? Because here’s your opportunity to be a part of it."

When it was introduced, NIL was designed to be a way to allow college athletes to benefit financially from the millions of dollars they bring to athletic departments every year. Those who aren’t in favor of the concept have argued that they already benefit. They get scholarships that often amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars to play sports over three to five years.

“It does set them up, but at the end of the day it doesn’t help them with the now,” Bowers said. “It helps them with the future. NIL helps them with the now.”

Bowers references his own story as an example. His college career ended nearly a decade ago, well before NIL was a possibility.

“I didn’t come to Mizzou with a lot of resources. I remember getting my Pell grant and my stipend and always trying to send money home and just make sure my mom and my little sister were okay,” he said. “I remember having a lot of really, really long nights at Mizzou. We won a lot of games. And even though I really enjoyed that, that doesn’t get rid of real life.

“My mom wasn’t able to come up to a lot of games. The reason for that was financial. Now you get guys the opportunity to fly mom in or fly dad in, you give guys the opportunity to make sure that their families are okay.”

Sasser has seen that impact firsthand.

“We have players who have kids and this NIL opportunity for them could go directly to them being able to better support their kids, whether that’s diapers, babysitters, doctor visits,” Sasser said. “It’s been able to really put them in a position where if something comes up they can really help their family out.”

Bud Sasser played wide receiver at Missouri through 2015
Bud Sasser played wide receiver at Missouri through 2015 (University of Missouri)

Neither Sasser nor Bowers had the option of NIL when they were in school. The outside view of it comes with a healthy dose of skepticism, especially with some of the numbers being thrown around. But Sasser views his role as one not only to help players take advantage of opportunities, but also to educate them about the potential pitfalls.

“We have a lot of young men who come from all different types of backgrounds who, even with their scholarship check, are jumping into a different tax bracket,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s great and you’re living in the moment. There’s a bubble that you’re living in that you don’t necessarily know you’re living in until it’s over. It’s more about educating them about everything that can happen. I try to be there and let them know this is a great opportunity: Here’s what you can do with it and here’s where people mess it up.

"It’s hard for me to say I wish I had all of this. Maybe I do wish that, but I also wish I had somebody who’s in my position today to tell them the positives, but also the negatives."

The current players are the beneficiaries from NIL. They’re the only ones who can sign deals. Bowers stresses that AMA is not dealing with any player or their representatives prior to that player arriving on campus. Basically the only rule around NIL right now is that it is not to be used as a recruiting inducement.

Technically, it isn’t. But in reality…

“NIL is the number one recruiting tool in college sports,” Bowers said. “Recruits see what you’re doing with your athletes on campus and they want to be a part of that.”

Deals can’t be struck with recruits. They can’t be promised. But if your current players aren’t getting them, recruits assume they won’t get them either. AMA is Missouri’s way not only of rewarding and assisting current players, but also of showing those future players what is possible for them in Columbia.

“It seems like Missouri is eight different states,” Steinhoff said. “We need a Braveheart. We need to find a way to unite the clans. We hope it’s a way that we can bring everybody together.”


*To donate to Advancing Missouri Athletes, get started by clicking here.

*Current PowerMizzou.com subscribers can donate through a specific link which will give our subscribers exclusive benefits and invitations to NIL events. Find out more about that here.

*If you are not a current subscriber, AMA and PowerMizzou.com are offering you special incentives. New donors who contribute at least $250 will receive a one-time promo code for 50% off your first year’s subscription to the site. Donors who contribute at least $500 will receive a promo code to receive the first year of their subscriptions for free. Click here to take advantage of this deal.

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