The force that is the donor collective business

Not much annoys my wife more than the ACC Tournament being played in Brooklyn.

In a matter of just six months, the donor collective business has easily become the biggest development — not only in the name, image and likeness realm — but across all of college athletics. How big? As much as half a billion to a billion dollars a year among the 130 FBS schools. That’s how much money will be flowing from the donor community into these collectives that are supporting college athletes in the very near future, possibly this year.

Opendorse CEO and co-founder Blake Lawrence and I did some spit balling that considered $5 million per school would be donated into the collectives annually. At some schools, that number will be much higher. The Clark Field Collective at Texas opened its doors with $10 million in commitments.

The numbers will be much lower for schools outside of the Power 5. The 130 schools in the FBS, multiplied by $5 million, comes to $650 million — more than halfway to $1 billion. That raises some compelling questions. If this model flourishes, could the CEO of the collective, which is a third-party business, become as powerful as the AD?

It also speaks volumes that key figures on the development side are now taking jobs at the collectives. Cavalier Futures launched this week at Virginia with Lo Davis as the executive director. He’d been with the UVA foundation since 2010. Georgia’s Classic City Collective launched last week with Matt Hibbs, a 13-year vet of college athletics at UGA, Tennessee and Ohio State, running the business. That tells you how important these positions are.

I asked Lawrence if he thought the collective model is sustainable. “Yes, it’s here to stay,” he said. “Donors are going to continue to buy the best coaches, they’re going to support facilities and they’re going to make sure the athletes are getting paid. It’s not this or that. It’s this AND that.”

The funds from the collectives are like the athletes’ salary. And, best of all, none of that money is coming out of the athletic department budget.

Advertising inventory for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament is sold out, Turner Sports and CBS Sports said, continuing a trend of robust ad sales for live sports and big events. While the tournament has sold out in the past, it has never sold out this far in advance, which enabled the two companies that share the rights to generate record revenue this year.

“We had one hell of a selling season,” said CBS Network Sales Exec VP John Bogusz. “Our teams are still working remotely in terms of getting these deals done, so credit to them.”

Turner Sports Exec VP and CRO Jon Diament added that the strength of the NCAA’s corporate champions and partners program, which includes 17 companies, provided the sales teams with a strong head start. More than 60% of the inventory is bought by those partners.

On the digital front, Diament said March Madness Live advertising is sold out as well. Autos, insurance and fast food were three categories where sales were the strongest.

The category that showed the greatest bounce-back was Hollywood studios, which was down significantly last year, but came back “to a reasonable degree this year,” Bogusz said. Travel was up and technology, notably the mobile category, had stout sales.

It was this time last year that Nebraska’s athletic department went before the school’s board of regents and sold them on the promise and potential of taking its multimedia rights in-house. Now, athletics is going back to the board, this time under the leadership of first-year AD Trev Alberts, who is seeking to return to an outsource model.

The school said it is working exclusively with JMI Sports on a 12-year deal. SBJ reported in January that Alberts was meeting with all of the major multimedia rights holders to outsource the Cornhuskers’ rights again. JMI emerged as the preferred partner.

The Huskers’ deal is worth a total of $215 million, or $18 million per year, but industry insiders don’t believe all of that number is guaranteed. Revenue values ​​can be altered by things like the third party buying a suite or tickets, as well as hitting certain sales goals.

Nebraska represents a huge win for JMI and a homecoming of sorts for the agency’s president, Tom Stultz, who negotiated Nebraska’s first multimedia rights deal when he was at IMG College in 2008. JMI’s CEO, Erik Judson, and Stultz worked on this latest deal, along with chief commercial officer Paul Archey and Senior VP/National Sales Nicole Metzger. It will go before the regents for approval next month.

JMI’s other school clients include Kentucky, Pitt, a share of Georgia (along with Learfield) and a share of Notre Dame (along with Legends).

ESPN averaged 3.98 million viewers for North Carolina’s 94-81 win over Duke on Saturday night, which featured Mike Krzyzewski’s final time coaching at Cameron Indoor Stadium, reports my colleague Austin Karp that figure is the best for a regular-season matchup at the UNC- Duke rivalry since 2019, when the second matchup of the season averaged 4.16 million viewers (that was Zion Williamson’s year at Duke, although he was a DNP in that second game).

Duke-North Carolina regular-season hoops trend on ESPN
DATE START (ET) VIEWERS (000)
Saturday, March 5, 2022 6:36pm 3,980
Saturday, February 5, 2022 6:06pm 2,188
Saturday, March 6, 2021 6:07pm 1,871
Saturday, February 6, 2021 6:06pm 1,866
Saturday, March 7, 2020 6:02pm 2,232
Saturday, February 8, 2020 6:04pm 2,674
Saturday, March 9, 2019 6:06pm 4,162
Wednesday, February 20, 2019 9:00pm 4,343
Saturday, March 3, 2018 8:17pm 3,369
Thursday, February 8, 2018 8:00pm 2,429

The ESPN number on Saturday did not have the benefit of the pregame ceremony for Coach K, as the network stuck with Texas-Kansas in overtime, moving pregame to ACC Network and the start of the actual game to ESPN2.

Saturday night’s game was easily the most-watched college hoops game this season, beating out the 2.79 million viewers for Gonzaga-Duke back on Nov. 26.

Most-watched college basketball games for 2021-22 regular season
GAME DATE NETWORK VIEWERS (000)
North Carolina-Duke 3/5 ESPN 3,980
Gonzaga-Duke 11/26 ESPN 2,793
Kentucky-Auburn 1/22 CBS 2,483
Kentucky-Arkansas 2/26 CBS 2,361
Ohio State-Purdue 1/30 CBS 2,277

Average get-in prices per ticket for the conference tournaments, according to data from Jonathan Marks, CEO, Dynamic Pricing Partners:

  1. Big East, Session 4 (semifinals): $185
  2. Pac-12, Session 5 (semifinals): $117
  3. Big East, Session 5 (semifinals): $115
  4. Pac-12, Session 6 (championship): $105
  5. ACC, Session 6 and Big Ten, Session 6 (semifinals): $90

  • Signing the Pac-12 to a subscription deal gives Israeli tech firm WSC Sports another big account in the US, where the cloud-based highlight delivery service is hoping to grow significantly and has targeted the college space as a fertile opportunity.
  • Opendorse said today it will produce more school-branded marketplaces like the one it launched last week at Oregon. The company is not naming which schools are in the pipeline to be next, but I’m told there are schools from each of the Power 5 conferences and several Group of Five schools.
  • With Texas-Kansas headed for overtime on Saturday night, ESPN had decisions to make around the pregame ceremonies for Coach K in his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. My colleague John Ourand talked to Burke Magnus about how the programming choices were made around UNC-Duke.
  • ACC Network will re-air a full encore presentation of the Duke-North Carolina game on Friday and Saturday, including all of the pregame and postgame ceremonies for Coach K’s retirement. And ESPN promises not to miss Coach K’s entrance this time.
  • The $84 million Dollar Loan Center opens today in Henderson, Nev., as the Big West Basketball Championships get underway just outside of Las Vegas, notes SBJ’s David Broughton. Hercules Tires is back as title sponsor the event, while the Hawaiian Islands will be presenting sponsor.
  • Reggie Miller is back promoting Wendy’s during March Madness, notes Ad Age. Data from iSpot.tv shows Wendy’s was the 15th highest spender on TV ads during the men’s event across CBS, truTV, TBS and TNT ($18.7 million). The QSR ranked No. 11 in terms of ad spend during the women’s tourney across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN ($145,179).

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