When USC partnered with an outside media company to launch BLVD LLC, the hope was that its unique approach to facilitating name, image and likeness endorsement deals for Trojan athletes would help prevent the rise of a collective led by donations – and USC out of the spotlight for future NCAA tournaments.
But less than two months later, The Times learned that a group of deep-rooted USC philanthropists and die-hard fans were running their own NIL operation against the school’s wishes.
The group plans to soon launch “Student Body Real,” a third-party collegiate they say is necessary for USC to properly compete with other colleges that list colleges. They are not alone among Trojans football fans, especially those who are tired of BLVD.
However, within USC, attempting to start a college outside of the university’s reach is seen as an existential threat that could invite serious scrutiny if the NCAA chooses to enforce its NIL policies.
Dale Rech has no such concerns. A Florida businessman and lifelong USC fan, Rech was a Trojans football benefactor during the Pete Carroll era, but became dissatisfied with the athletic department and eventually severed ties. He’s spearheading the effort on Student Body Right, he says, which offers a NIL alternative to BLVD “for people who want to join the football program without any connection to USC.”
Among the group was Brian Kennedy, who was once one of USC’s athletic benefactors and whose name still graces the Trojans’ practice field. Kennedy’s relationship with USC soured nearly a decade ago, but he confirmed to The Times that he was involved in discussions about the Student Body Right.
Details about how the money will be distributed to players have not yet been finalized, but Rech said the collective’s goal is to provide a “base salary amount” for every member of USC’s football team who is academically eligible. To receive the money, the players will do community service and participate in charity work with local organizations.
How that charitable work will be valued or how the money will be divided among the players is still up in the air. Student Body Right has filed for 501c3 status as a charitable organization, which would make certain donations to the group tax-deductible. BLVD is not a 501c3 charitable organization.
Student Body Right is not the first outfit outside NIL to apply for such status. Several colleges, including those of Texas, Texas Tech, Notre Dame and Arizona, have either sought or already acquired the same 501c3 status, while some experts warn that it could invite scrutiny if the IRS or state governments decide to take a closer look. whether the collective exists for charitable purposes.
The ambiguity of that definition, along with the regulatory uncertainty surrounding the NIL, is already making USC leaders uneasy.
In response to questions from The Times, USC athletic director Mike Bohn issued a statement representing the university’s position. Refused to accept the existence of Student Rights.
“Earlier this year, USC worked with StayDoubted to create BLVD LLC, an agency and media company that provides NIL services to all USC student-athletes,” Bohn said. “USC is not aware of an official donor-created NIL collection. We ask donors who wish to support USC athletes through the NIL to please work with BLVD to ensure that all activities are in compliance with state law and NCAA rules. make a.
Rech said his group consulted with several outside attorneys and tax experts during the formation of the college to ensure it complied with all applicable NCAA rules, although the current interpretation of those rules is unclear. New guidelines introduced by the NCAA in May, however, expressly prohibit boosters — as well as the colleges they may represent — from participating in the recruiting process or offering NIL contracts as an incentive to sign with a school. prohibits
USC may be held liable by the NCAA for violating these rules. But Rech says Student Body Right has no intention of being involved in recruiting or anything involving future Trojans athletes. NIL payments will only be made to registered athletes who have completed the required charity work.
“This is an independent college, with no affiliation or affiliation with the university,” Rech said. “The NCAA can’t go back to the university until we are in compliance and stay within NCAA and state guidelines. We have no knock on the university. We just want control.”
That power struggle is not unique to USC. As third-party conglomerates continue to proliferate throughout college football, universities are now dealing with deep-seated donors who may now wield enormous influence in athletics, with no real track record of controlling them. leave
“We feel really good about the way we’re connected with BLVD, and we’re looking forward to a successful agency that will comply with NCAA rules,” Bohn told The Times when asked if the two organizations could with each other.
When Rech began researching the prospect of a third college at USC, he says he reached out to BLVD to inform them of his plans and ask about working together.
“They were convinced they didn’t need our help,” Rech said.
So he decided at that time to stop development on the collegiate, as BLVD planned to award it to members of the USC Scholarship Club, which includes top-level donors who give $20,000 or more to the USC Athletic Fund. Dedicated to Trojans.
BLVD held two Zoom meetings last month to outline the organization’s goals. One slide from their presentation, seen by The Times, shows that BLVD has set a fundraising goal of $75 million over the next five years, which is $15 million a year.
But the presentations also raised concerns among some donors about where their money would be allocated. As explained at the meeting, only 50% of each donation made will be allocated to the location of the donor’s choice, while the other 50% will be allocated to BLVD’s general fund to be allocated however BLVD sees fit.
Two people familiar with the decision told The Times that the policy was in the process of being changed in light of the donors’ pushback. But concerns about BLVD’s viability in the NIL market persist among top-level donors and USC fans, many of whom have been calling for a third collegiate exit for months.
For Rech, that concern was the final reason to move forward with Student Body Right. He doesn’t see why USC is so sure the two can’t coexist.
“We’re not leaving the BLVD,” Rech said. “We’re filling a money gap that they didn’t want anyway.”
Like USC executives, Mike Jones doesn’t see the need for an outside collegiate and the potential liability that comes with it. As CEO of StayDoubted, the outside media agency that partnered with the university to create BLVD, Jones told The Times that BLVD “has the ability to operate like any other college in the country.”
Jones went on to describe BLVD as “collegiate-plus” — a change in phrasing from its introduction in June when USC sought to distance itself from association with collegiates.
“We see ourselves as the model of the future that the collective will reach,” Jones continued.
Asked about evidence of that growth, Jones said USC is looking at “eight-figures-plus annually” in private donations, before considering potential corporate sponsorships, content sales or marketing. He also said USC has raised “seven-figures-plus” in deals for Trojans athletes since BLVD was issued.
New USC coach Lincoln Riley echoed that positive sentiment at Pac-12 media day when asked about BLVD’s launch.
“I felt going into this job that we were going to have an advantage over any team in the country in the NIL, and I know that now,” Riley told The Times. “I know [BLVD] It’s still a little bit in its infancy, and I think this thing is going to be a big part of USC athletics and USC football. It’s something that I have the full support of, our staff has the full support of, and I would encourage every Trojan fan out there to get involved because it will make a difference.”
While supporting BLVD, Riley acknowledged that there may be a time when collegiates are standard for any major college football program.
“If this world becomes a collegiate world, our fans here will support our guys as much as anyone in the country,” Riley said. “If not a collective world, who has a better institution than this?” However, these advanced rules, we have settled.
“What we don’t want to do for a future athlete, our current program, one of the staff is that we do something now that is later considered against the rules or they decide to enforce the rules, and now we’re in trouble. Now we’re in trouble. Now we’re on probation. Now people are getting fired or people are losing their rights. Nobody wants to go through that. We don’t have to. Here, you can get all the benefits. , and you don’t have to take that risk. Then when they actually define these rules, we’ll define our path and go.”
Rech is less reliable in BLVD. In the fast-changing world of the NIL, he insists he wants to make sure the living expenses of every football player at USC are covered. If that means working with BLVD in concert or continuing an already contentious relationship, so be it.
“We welcome anyone who can lead USC back to winning national championships,” Rech said.