When state laws and the NCAA made it legal last year for college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness, a University of Miami supporter fired one of the first attention-getting shots.
Dan Lambert offered $500 a month to any Hurricanes scholarship football player in exchange for promoting the American Top Team mixed martial arts academy he founded, an annual outlay of more than $500,000 if everyone opted in.
Now Texas Tech football players can sign up to make four times that amount.
The Matador Club, a non-profit collective organized by Texas Tech donors, plans this week to sign 100 Red Raiders football players each to one-year, $25,000 contracts.
Cody Campbell, a founding member of the Matador Club board of directors, said all 85 scholarship players and 15 of the top walk-ons will be covered under the agreements. In return, they’ll be expected to do community service and charitable work around Lubbock and, in the future, possibly other West Texas cities.
Campbell said payments to players will be made monthly beginning the first week of August, and the community service endeavors will continue throughout the next year.
When the club was launched in February, Campbell said he and fellow Tech supporters Terry Fuller, John Sellers, Gary Petersen, Tim Culp and Marc McDougal are board members for the organization. Campbell and Sellers are former Canyon High School and Tech football teammates, as well as business partners.
State laws last July legalized college athletes being paid by third parties for use of their name, image and likeness. The NCAA grudgingly acceded after decades of prohibiting athletes receiving more than a scholarship and, later, full cost of attendance stipends. Donor collectives, through which a school’s fans can pool money to support their teams, sprang up quickly across the country.
“The Matador Club has been funded by private donors,” Campbell said. “It’s an NIL collective. Donations have ranged from 10 dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve done pretty well and so we’re ready to sign the contracts with the football team. We plan to move forward with (men’s) basketball and baseball in the next weeks, months to come.”
The Matador Club will offer each player the same contract, Campbell said, a one-year deal, renewable annually. The biggest star and the walk-on are each signing for $25,000.
“Collectives have done things a number of different ways,” Campbell said. “You see some of them paying large amounts to individual players. You see others doing different things. But what we want to do, really, is support the entire program. This is kind of a base salary for the guys. They’re not going to be restricted from doing any other NIL stuff with anybody else. In fact, we’re going to encourage and help them to do that.
“But this is just something that’s going to make sure that guys feel supported by the Texas Tech community, that they are comfortable and in a position where they can stay in the program and develop themselves, because we really believe in what coach (Joey) McGuire and his staff are doing in terms of being focused on long-term player development. We think that’s the key to Texas Tech, in particular, having success.”
The 85 players are the maximum the NCAA allows on scholarship. Campbell said the 15 walk-ons the Matador Club plans to sign will be the ones most likely to contribute to the team.
“Texas Tech has a long history of walk-ons doing very well,” Campbell said, “and coming along, being contributors and earning scholarships over time. And so it’s important that we support as many of those guys as we can.”
All 100 players will be offered a contract this week. Checks are to be distributed monthly.
In early December, Tech announced a $25 million gift from Campbell that will go toward a proposed $200 million in football facilities. Tech subsequently named the field at Jones AT&T Stadium for him.
Campbell declined to say how much money the Matador Club has raised, citing competitive purposes with other schools’ NIL collectives, though the initial investment in Red Raiders football players adds up to $2.5 million. Campbell said there are additional funds beyond that. The donations are being held in a liquid account, he said, not invested because “we don’t want to take any risk with anybody’s money.”
“It’s been amazing how well we’ve done from a fundraising standpoint,” he said. “Really, I don’t even know that we’ve scratched the surface in terms of what the potential capability of the Texas Tech community is when it comes to something like this. I think we can be competitive with just about anybody on this front.”
Campbell said close to 1,000 donors have contributed, but he says the Matador Club needs contributors large and small to be successful and sustaining over many years. He said a number of fans are giving $100 month and others have given amounts such as $1,000 and $5,000.
“We’ve been able to raise the money we felt like we needed to raise to hit our targets,” Campbell said. “Tech fans have a lot of passion, right? And so pretty much anybody we’ve gotten to talk to about it has been willing and able to help. They understand how important it is.
“I think, overall, my expectations have been confirmed with respect to how the Tech alumni base and body of fans would respond, and I think that long-term, NIL will be a major strength for Texas Tech, just because we have a very large number of alumni and a relatively affluent alumni base, but also one that’s very, very passionate. That’s probably the main thing is people really do care about Tech and are willing to do whatever they can to help.”
Campbell said the Matador Club hired an NCAA attorney when setting up its collective and says it will operate in compliance with NCAA rules. In other words, only an outside entity, not the school, is involved, there will be an exchange of value by athletes in return for the money and NIL deals cannot be used as a recruiting inducement.
“That’s a rule a lot of people are breaking,” Campbell said in regard to the latter, “but we’re absolutely not going to do it. We’re not going to play that game. Now, I’m certain that when every player on our roster gets $25,000, it’s going to become known that Texas Tech has a good NIL program that’ll be appealing to recruits, but we’re not going to make any promises on the front end. We’re not going to break any rules.”
Texas state NIL law requires athletes disclose to their school any proposed offer related to NIL. As of June 30, one year after athletes were allowed to profit, Tech athletes had disclosed NIL deals that totaled almost $1.7 million. In all sports across the athletics department, not just football, 218 Tech athletes (170 men, 48 women) had disclosed 534 NIL deals that averaged $3,180 per activity.
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