COLUMBIA, Mo. — Mizzou’s NIL piggy bank is open for business.
It took nearly a year, but Tigers fans can now donate to a locally-run major collective that will help finance name, image and likeness endorsement deals for Eli Drinkwitz’s football players and Dennis Gates’ basketball players.
Advancing Missouri Athletes, a privately run company independent of the university, first launched last summer and has since amassed undisclosed donations from a small cluster of major Mizzou donors. Starting Thursday, just as Gov. Mike Parson signed an amended law designed to enhance NIL business around the state, the general public can contribute to the collective’s coffers through its web site, advancingmo.com.
While others collectives connected to Southeastern Conference peers at Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M have made national headlines with their seven-figure war chests, the founders for Advancing Missouri Athletes — AMA for short — filed for an LLC last summer but consciously took their time to fully organize and stockpile their seed money before going public.
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Greg Steinhoff, AMA’s CEO, said the collective’s stakeholders didn’t want to be associated with the nation’s first wave of NIL collectives, which he described as “the Wild West.”
“We just didn’t want to be thrown into the fray and be part of what you saw back then,” he said Thursday. “It was better just to be quiet. Let’s do it right. Let’s make sure that we’re not jeopardizing anything with these student-athletes and that we’re providing them with what they want. So let’s just get a small group of people together and get it going.
“But the last 18 months have been crazy. Missouri fans are really wanting to get involved, so this is an opportunity to take it to the next level and give them that chance.”
AMA has hired two former Mizzou athletes to help manage the collective: Former basketball player Laurence Bowers serves as executive director, while former football receiver Bud Sasser is director of operations. The collective pays their salaries and other administrative costs. Otherwise, all fan contributions will go directly to MU athletes.
Who decides how much the athletes receive? That’s up to the collective. When fans donate to the AMA fund, the collective uses that money to partner with businesses to create NIL opportunities for MU athletes. The money is not allocated equally among athletes who agree to partner with AMA, nor can fans earmark which athletes receive their donation. AMA will not disclose terms of individual contracts.
“An athlete who has more in-person engagement would likely earn more compensation than others who were less involved,” the AMA website states. “Higher profile athletes may also receive more than others, but every deal is individually negotiated and agreed up by the athletes and AMA.”
How much money has AMA raised? The collective is also keeping those numbers private.
“We don’t want to be part of the fray,” said Steinhoff, who before retiring was president of strategic operations at Columbia’s Veterans United Home Loans and earlier served as the state’s economic development chief from under former Gov. Matt Blunt.
“It’s crazy what kind of numbers are being thrown around out there. We work real closely to try to figure out what we think we’re going to need to make NIL matter to these student-athletes in conjunction with what (athletics director) Desiree (Reed-Francois) is doing to build facilities, in conjunction with what Coach ‘Drink’ is doing to build unbelievable culture on that team. It’s one piece. This piece involves the community getting involved. So it’s our job to do everything we can to contribute to make that piece strong like the other ones.”
Shortly after first joining the collective, Steinhoff made calls to three different athletics directors around the country to assess how much money their collectives were raising. He couldn’t get a straight answer.
“Every one of them would say, ‘We hear that we have $30 million, but we don’t even have close to a tenth of that,’” he said. “The numbers that were kind of whipped up … were a lot of times rumor-based. Even at this point in time you don’t really know what your competition is. You just have to put your head down and do the best you can and then hope that Missouri fans see this as opportunity for us to compete and give somebody like Coach Drinkwitz and Coach Gates a chance to sell their program and their abilities and their culture.
“I think we have a really good shot to be better after NIL than we were before. I really do. I believe we have the base in Missouri to do that.”
The newly amended state law Parson signed Thursday now allows Drinkwitz, Gates and other MU employees to have more engagement with NIL business. NCAA rules prohibit collectives from using NIL payments as recruiting inducements, and while MU coaches can’t directly negotiate NIL deals with current players or recruits, the state law allows them to endorse AMA and other Mizzou-related collectives. AMA hopes to branch out and support athletes from other MU teams as the collective grows.
Still less than a year into the NIL movement across college sports, one challenge for AMA and similar collectives remains unchanged: How do you convert the hardened fan who clings to the NCAA’s long-held amateurism model and doesn’t believe college athletes should be paid beyond their tuition, room and board?
Steinhoff understands those concerns. He once had them, too.
“This idea is initially not very attractive to a lot of fans,” he said. “But then they start to realize that the athletes work really hard to get where they are. They provide a lot of resources to the universities. … Also, we’re in the SEC. If we want to compete, we need to do this.
“They start at the point where it’s not something they want to. It’s really distasteful. Then they get to the point where, OK, if we’re going to do this and if we’re going to compete, we got to do it right and we got to do well. So the evolution is more about how do we educate people and get them comfortable with (NIL)?”
In the wake of Wednesday’s bill signing, Mizzou unveiled a series of NIL initiatives that will soon impact MU athletes.
The athletics department and third-party NIL branding company Opendorse will launch an online marketplace where fans and sponsors can directly connect with potential MU athletes as business partners.
MU is among several schools working with Topps and Fanatics to feature Tiger athletes on trading cards.
Ahead of the 2022 football season, fans will be able to buy customized Nike jerseys featuring the names and numbers of MU players, who will be compensated for each sale.
The athletics department is creating an in-house team to oversee NIL activities, headed by a new position, assistant AD for NIL.
“We are grateful to our state legislators for their continued support of our student-athletes,” Reed-Francois said. “As an institution, we will help our Tigers maximize NIL opportunities within the framework of the updated legislation and NCAA rules. We look forward to collaborating with our University partners and providing a new NIL-related educational curriculum which is unique to Mizzou.”
The men’s basketball matchups are set for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Among the 10 cross-conference showdowns set for Jan. 28, Mizzou will host Iowa State, a rematch of last season’s meeting in Ames, Iowa, won by the Cyclones 67-50. MU is 2-3 all-time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.
The SEC won six of the 10 matchups last season. Here are the other games: Alabama at Oklahoma; Arkansas at Baylor; Auburn at West Virginia; Florida at Kansas State; Kansas at Kentucky; Texas Tech at LSU; Ole Miss at Oklahoma State; TCU at Mississippi State; and Texas at Tennessee.
Former Mizzou baseball coach Tim Jamieson will be the new pitching coach at Memphis, working under new Tigers coach Kerrick Jackson, who coached under Jamieson at Mizzou from 2011-15. Jamieson has been Southern Illinois’ pitching coach the last three seasons. … He’s not the only former Mizzou coach headed to Memphis. Men’s basketball coach Penny Hardaway plans to hire Frank Haith as an assistant, multiple outlets reported last week. Haith spent the last eight years as the head coach at Tulsa, 138-108. … Mizzou baseball has gone back to the professional ranks for its next pitching coach. Ricky Meinhold, formerly part of the Cardinals and Mets organizations, will become Steve Bieser’s fifth pitching coach, D1Baseball.com first reported. Mitchell Plassmeyer took over the role in January after the death of Brian DeLunas, then left last month for a job in the Orioles’ farm system. Meinhold, a St. Louis native who played collegiately at Drury, was a Cardinals scout and later pitching analyst from 2013-19. … Early prediction for Mizzou football’s top jersey sales in 2022: Luther Burden, Harrison Mevis and whoever wins the quarterback job. … Newly committed Mizzou transfer Kristian Williams played 385 snaps at Oregon last year, more than any current defensive tackle on the roster among Darius Robinson (294), Oklahoma State transfer Jayden Jernigan (352), Realus George Jr. (132), Baylor transfer Josh Landry (92), Daniel Robledo (18) and Auburn transfer Ian Mathews (0). … Former offensive coordinator Derek Dooley’s breach of contract lawsuit against Mizzou has been scheduled for a non-jury trial on July 10. Dooley, MU’s coordinator from 2018-19, joined Alabama’s staff this offseason as an offensive analyst. … And you thought SEC baseball was brutal now? Six of the eight teams in the College World Series field either play in the SEC or will soon play in the SEC: Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and future additions Oklahoma and Texas. Missing the field this year: Regular-season SEC champion Tennessee and defending CWS champion Mississippi State, not to mention Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Vanderbilt, who combined for six national championships from 2009-2019.