Alabama NIL collective calls for small dollars from Crimson Tide fans and a little blind faith | Goodbread
The call went out far and wide on Tuesday to the Alabama fan who's never joined any of the clubs - not Tide Pride, which determines seating priority for football season tickets, not the Red Elephant Club, and certainly not the tiny club of donors whose names get etched into buildings.
This, instead, is what politicians call a grassroots campaign.
High Tide Traditions, the NIL collective supporting Alabama athletics, launched a membership club intended to fill the coffers that, in turn, pay UA athletes for their name, image and likeness. And with a price range of $9.99-$29.99 a month, it's targeting the fan who sits on a couch on fall Saturdays, not in a luxury suite.
There is, of course, one key difference between membership in this club and what NIL was originally meant to be: contributors won't get to designate which athlete gets their contribution, nor do they have a say in what promotion or service the player will purportedly perform for it. There's a blind faith involved here that it will be spent wisely – frankly, on the right player and for the right price – by the brain trust in charge of allocation. Each $9.99 will be lost in a sea of $9.99's.
Hence the term "collective."
If the rules governing NIL, or more accurately, the lack of them, don't fundamentally change – and there's no reason to think they will – it's going to take dollars in the millions for any top-shelf athletic program to acquire and keep top-shelf talent.
In June, Ohio State football coach Ryan Day told an assembly of potential donors that the Buckeyes would need $13 million to do so, and he was referencing his sport alone, not an entire athletic program. High Tide Traditions, whatever its annual goal might be, is attacking the task from the bottom up rather than the top down. We're talking about a school with an alumni club of 124 chapters nationwide, in 29 states. A school that's turning out armies of graduates,; nearly 6,000 in this year's spring semester alone.
It's clever, even if it won't put you in a room with Bryce Young.
Meanwhile, UA is launching The Authentic, a new retail shop coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium this fall that will feature the players' NIL merchandise. Yet another high-volume, low-dollar approach to NIL funding, although in that case, fans will know which player they're supporting. Perhaps the one they just witnessed score a game-winning touchdown; current, star-quality players who frankly deserve a much larger share of the NIL pie than recruits do.
In both cases, the money stream is a lot more sustainable long-term than counting on a far smaller circle of people to carry the NIL load perpetually. The early word on High Tide Traditions was that it would take a slow, measured approach to its direction, and an inexpensive membership club is one of the first public glimpses of its plan.
Luxury-box donors will still be writing some fat checks, and when it comes to keeping the NIL lawn watered, fans of lesser means might decide to leave it to the whales.
Those who don't won't have to pay much, but for as little as $9.99, they'll have to let someone else decide which player gets it.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread