CU Recruiting: Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Update … A new organization named Horns with Heart has set up a deal where each Texas offensive lineman will be paid $50,000 per year called “The Pancake Factory.”

Details of the deal were given in their initial statement:

Starting 8/1/22 all scholarship Offensive Linemen at the University of Texas will receive $50,000 annually ($800,000 combined) for use of their NIL and participating in charitable causes.

… You want to read more? Or are you convinced that there is no chance in Hell that CU will be able to compete in this brave new world of NIL …

… (Thanks to CU at the Gamer Eric for finding this depressing story) …

There were two stories in the news this week which highlight the (imbalanced) state of collegiate athletics, as well as the (ever-growing) discrepancies between Power Five conference schools.

First, CU announced that it had created the Colorado Athletics Visibility Award (CAVA), a scholarship program that is the first of its kind in collegiate athletics.

From the CU press release:  The purpose of this scholarship is to create a community of collegiate scholar-athletes who have a desire to use their platform, power, and visibility in their role as athletes to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion in sport.
Currently, CAVA will be a $20,000 tuition scholarship at CU Boulder, with two new recipients to be awarded annually based on their project proposals that seek to advance inclusion, rights representation and safety for LGBTQ+ participants in sports.

The goal is to build a large enough endowment for CAVA to cover the full cost of attendance to CU Boulder for two recipients annually, while also providing scholar-athletes with the opportunity to apply for additional funding to support their projects in meaningful ways.

The first two recipients of the CAVA scholarships are senior men’s basketball star Evan Battey and sophomore volleyball player Alexia Kuehl.

The second story came from Austin, Texas, where the University of Texas announced a $10 million NIL program.

From demandmoreus.comA group consisting of University of Texas donors, former athletes, and sports marketer Nick Shuley announced the launch of an eight-figure NIL program, Clark Field Collective.

The collective has secured an initial commitment of $10 million for Texas NIL (name, image and likeness) activities, “with the ultimate goal of having the largest dedicated fund in the country for college athletes.”

Unaffiliated with the university, the collective has been created in order to assist the school’s varsity athletes in cultivating and facilitating NIL opportunities in conjunction with businesses, donors and fans.

… Shuley told ON3 that the collective hopes to be a “one-stop fund” to be spread across all sports for NIL activities, such as endorsements, autographs and appearances.

… Expected to be a format easily copied by other schools with deep pockets, Texas finds itself in a powerful position with such a wide array of alumni support.

“We have a unique setup here at Texas where we have the biggest and best and most prominent donors, in my opinion,” Shuley told ON3. “That definitely sets us apart from other universities. There is no reason we shouldn’t line all that up so everyone benefits. . . . There are so many opportunities to work with some of the best brands just in our backyard.”

The news of this new collective comes shortly after Texas Athletics announced it would begin paying eligible student-athletes $5,980 per year, the legally established maximum after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alston v. NCAA case. This is something expected to be adopted by the majority (if not all) schools in Power Five Conferences, but it’s clear schools with financial advantages could begin to further distance themselves from the pack in terms of recruiting. With the announcement of the Clark Field Collective, Texas continues to push the pace in that regard.

So …

On the one hand, CU announces Wednesday that it has created two $20,000 scholarships for its student athletes.

On the same day, Texas announces it has created a $10 million slush fund for payments to its student athletes.

If those two stories don’t give you pause on just how imbalanced collegiate athletics is getting, even among the Power Five conferences, nothing will.

To put the contrast between the two stories in context:

  • The University of Colorado has approximately 350 student athletes. Texas could offer CU’s CAVA scholarship to every student athlete at CU – from the third-string center on the football team to every discus thrower on the track team to every setter on the volleyball team – and still have $3 million left over to throw at the star football and basketball players.

Now, I’m not trying to diminish the value of CU’s newly-created CAVA scholarships, either what they stand for, or the efforts that went into their creation. I’m a big Evan Battey fan, and, if I paid better attention to the CU women’s volleyball team, I’m sure I would be a fan of Alexia Kuehl as well.

But the dichotomy of the two announcements made by CU and the University of Texas could not be more clear.

And this is all outside money. All money cleared by the Supreme Court in the Alston case in the name of fair treatment of athletes.

This does not take into account the difference in revenues the athletic departments bring in, which is already disproportionate.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the University of Colorado athletic department brought in $95,592,704; the University of Texas brought in $200,772,813. (Source: Sportico).

Granted, Texas is one of the top revenue generators in the country, but even in the Pac-12, Colorado is near the bottom when it comes to dollars to work with when it comes time to pay the bills. In 2019-20, only Washington State ($74,741,186) and Oregon State ($72,448,232) had fewer dollars to work with, while CU was almost on par with Utah ($97,217,204); UCLA ($97,674,553) and Arizona State ($97,814,344).

So, CU was already at a distinct disadvantage when it came to recruiting and the resources available to bring in better recruits (and coaches). Before, the arms race in recruiting centered around how dazzling your weight room was, or how many different uniform combinations you could use.

Now, however, in the age of NIL, it’s how much you can pay your players.

You can call it NIL opportunities, you can call it branding … It doesn’t matter.

Today’s student athletes (and their parents) want to know how much they are going to be paid to attend your school.

And so, for schools like CU, recruiting in 2021 is like bringing a knife to a gunfight (or, if you prefer something with less violent connotations, recruiting for CU in 2021 is like bringing a Prius to the Indy 500).

In the age of NIL, The CU coaching staff doesn’t just have one hand tied behind their backs when it comes to recruiting against other schools … CU coaches are fighting for recruits with both hands tied behind their backs – while blindfolded.

Come to Boulder and see the mountains … Come to Eugene and get paid.

Which do you think is the more appealing pitch to 17-year olds?

That being said, CU is holding its own with the Recruiting Class of 2022. The Buffs are currently tied for 40th in the nation in the Rivals recruiting rankings, and tied for third in the Pac-12 (tied with Arizona on both accounts). Only Oregon and Stanford currently have higher-ranked recruiting Classes. With less than two weeks to go before Signing Day (Wednesday, December 15th), CU looks to have a much better relative recruiting Class than it did last year (63rd nationally; 9th in the Pac-12).

But some of CU’s enhanced status has to do with the coaching overhauls taking place at USC, Washington, and Washington State (and the uncertainty of Herm Edwards’ future at Arizona State). USC will certainly move up in the rankings now that Lincoln Riley has been hired, and other schools behind CU in the rankings, like UCLA and Arizona State, may pass the Buffs by December 15th.

Still, it’s not a bad showing for a coaching staff without an offensive coordinator, and an uncertain future under Karl Dorrell.

The question is: Can CU bring in enough good recruits in the future, when other schools follow the Texas lead, and create multi-million “NIL” funds to pay their players?

Time will tell …


16 Replies to “CU Recruiting: Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight”

  1. Here’s another interesting commentary:

    Miami, like CU and UW (and our friends next door) was a powerhouse 30yrs ago. All have been left in the dust, other than a brief stint from Petersen at UW.

    But, doesn’t it feel like there’s another great rotation in the offing? It does to me. Look, Alabama was a kid staying in bounds – which would’ve eaten 40 seconds they used to tie the game off the clock – from losing to Auburn. Had they played 9 conference games, I still maintain they’d have two losses.

    Clemson? 8-4 is considered a disappointment, and it is, and they just lost Venables, too.

    Riley to USC is huge.

    Whoever gets the UO gig is going to be interesting. Mario lost some embarrassing games, but he definitely recruited well. Will the next guy?

    Maybe Michigan returns to a perennial top dog, vs. “only” 9-10 wins/yr?

    Playoff expansion?

    The NIL thing is going to see a lot of kids – and their families – who have no idea how to handle their new found riches – and to many of them, $25k is riches – and watch a lot of problems unfold from them.

    CU can use all this to get back at least to competitive 8-4, top 25-ish football, with occasional runs at championships, both in the Pac 12 and, dare I say, nationally.

    Are Rick, Lance and Karl the guys to get us back there? We’ll find out. If not, then my guess is we’ll be looking at a new crew in 3-ish years. But, let’s hope they can. Nobody likes starting over.

    Go Buffs

  2. Holy cow, 50k a year for all scholoarship lineman…. I never imagined this. If this actually goes through I don’t see how CU e er competes at the championship level.

  3. I HATE this new situation where athletes can make ~~~ millions just getting out of HS. It’s a buncha’ crap.

    *Athletes get a free education while others have to dish out ~$80K (depending) to get their degree. Damned good deal if you can get it. Collegiate athletics are going to hell in a handbasket.

    GET PAID TO LEARN AND HAVE FUN ! WHATA’ DEAL. Drive your Lamborgini to practice guys !

    1. Seems like he took Ohio State boosters for a million dollars and looks to be a 3/4 star player in reality. NIL is definitely a huge player but it will have busts. This links back to the NBA one and done rule, they had too much money in high school players that were “busts”.

      1. I don’t know if the sponsors were osu or other sources. But either way, those funds that are alumni/booster driven (and to a lesser degree just business brands at large) may be more wary after backing kids who become busts, or even studs who transfer. I think the nil thing will evolve over time and look a lot different than it does now. And a great upshot of it would be teaching kids how to manage loads of money, as well as make more. That is where programs like CU can differentiate themselves.

        Go Buffs

  4. Coached need to take advantage of the chaos in the coaching world. Colorado’s no.1 recruit, Gavin Sawchuk, is currently an Oklahoma commit. With Riley and company leaving, KD and Hagan hopefully are getting into his ear about “staying home” to play for CU.

  5. Did I hear you right Stuart?
    Prior to Riley, CU and….gasp…Arizona are both out recruiting USC?
    I guess as time goes on in the near future we will see how far the ol’ “chip on the shoulder” will go against big money
    All this has to be trending to the one super conference. I’m wondering if it will contain enough teams to flush out the proposed 12 team play off for NC.

  6. I said it before, the ability to pay the players 5-6 figures for NIL really means an end to 85 scholarships per school, “if I pay you $100,000 (or more) and a loaner car from the local good ol’ boy dealership, you can pay for your own school and this gives us an advantage towards winning national championship. And, you want to be on a championship team don’t you? ” adding “you’ll be getting paid to play for a NC and building a resume towards the NFL.

    Next will be relaxed academics so the student athlete can focus more on the all important money making and prestige building football, winning will keep the rich alumni happy to give.

    Since the NCAA is losing it’s authority once the big boys bounce, they will be able to write their own rules.

    1. Next?!?!……relaxed academics have been around for decades.

      The University of North Carolina academic-athletic scandal involved alleged fraud and academic dishonesty committed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).[1] Following a lesser scandal that began in 2010 involving academic fraud and improper benefits with the university’s football program, two hundred questionable classes offered by the university’s African and Afro-American Studies department (commonly known as AFAM) came to light. As a result, the university was placed on probation by its accrediting agency.

      1. Your right… make that “Even more relaxed academics” Seriously, a kid making big money can hire someone to “help” with their school work, and if the NCAA loses it’s power, what stops schools from making players “employees” that earn credit/grades for being aids in a class (i.e. that 8th grader sitting at the teachers desk in a 7th grade class grading papers for credit) and then sending in the hired help to do that job.

        Some schools have already proven they will break the rules, what happens when they get to write the rules too?

  7. Things always change… Oregon was for most of it’s history a “meddling” program in the Pac-10 with little athletic success or academic prowess to brag about, then Phil Knight and his $$$ came along. CU just needs to find (or develop) it’s ‘Phil Knight’. We may never ‘catch up’ to Oregon and SC in the arms race, but should be able to at least hold our own against 75% of the other Pac-12 teams including every team in the south other than SC. There’s no tangible long-term rationale for Utah to lead the south other than Kyle Whittingham and he won’t be around for ever. Heck, CU was a meddling program until Bill McCartney made a change and built something special (that Rick Neuheisel then squandered). There’s opportunity and $$$ out there, it just needs to be pursued in whatever unique form it takes for the Buffs.

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