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How the University of Colorado is embracing NIL

Jake Schwanitz Avatar
November 2, 2022

At Tuesday’s weekly press conference, Colorado interim head coach Mike Sanford’s main talking points weren’t as much about Arizona State or Oregon but rather name, image and likeness (NIL).

Last Friday, the Buffs4Life Foundation alongside the University of Colorado announced the Buffs4Life NIL Collective.

Buffs4Life was created to aid former Colorado student-athletes and provide a community that could provide those former student-athletes with financial assistance and mental health resources. Now that effort has been expanded to provide assistance to current CU student-athletes.

“I believe that what Buffs4Life and the collective put forth at the end of last week is a game-changing narrative for our program,” Sanford said.

Colorado has lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of adjusting to the new age of college football with NIL, the transfer portal and realignment rapidly shifting the landscape.

The Buffs4Life NIL Collective is a step but it’s not the final solution for Colorado to retain and competitively compensate players compared to other universities.

“We understand how badly people here want to win,” Sanford said. “[The NIL collective] is a part of the puzzle. It’s not the only part of the puzzle, but it is a large part of the puzzle.”

While he is serving the University of Colorado as the interim head coach, coach Sanford has made sure that he and his staff continue to recruit and maintain previously built relationships amongst recruits.

Sanford has yet to be in Boulder for a full calendar year, but he spoke about how NIL impacts Colorado’s ability to recruit and keep up with opposing schools.

“We’ve had situations where we’re in deep with a recruit or a transfer and we’re on the phone, everything’s good, they’re going to be on an official visit, and then all of a sudden they go completely silent,” Sanford said. 

With the concept of NIL being somewhat new to college football, sometimes it’s second-hand information that details why that recruit went silent. Sanford continued.

“Then we find out, that particular student-athlete went from essentially having no NIL on the table from any school and then all of a sudden, literally, a $300,000 or $400,000 deal is on the table,” Sanford said.

Last off-season was not kind to CU as coaches, players and fans helplessly watched Christian Gonzalez, Mekhi Blackmon and Brenden Rice enter the transfer portal and leave the program.

With the Buffs4Life NIL Collective, coach Sanford emphasized that keeping CU’s current players will be the most important task heading into the off-season.

“The retention of this roster is by far the most important thing because we have some tremendous examples of growth,” Sanford said. “I want them to be compensated because the rest of the landscape of power five football is doing as such.”

One of those examples of tremendous growth is true freshman wide receiver Jordyn Tyson. Tyson became the first CU true freshman ever to win PAC-12 freshman of the week and PAC-12 special teams player of the week in the same week after his performance against Arizona State.

“We’ve seen his growth, we’ve seen his maturity,” Sanford said. “You’re seeing a lot of his labors come to fruition on game day.”

Tyson, alongside Owen McCown and Anthony Hankerson, is one of many freshmen that are spearheading Colorado’s youth movement. Sophomores Trevor Woods, Nikko Reed, Kaylin Moore, Montana Lemonious-Craig and Tyrin Taylor have also flashed great potential this season.

The work that Mike Sanford has done as the interim head coach in the last month has been nothing short of tremendous and admirable.

Sanford has been working alongside athletic director, Rick George, on a variety of long-term issues that CU is still facing.

Two weeks ago, Rick George’s name was floated around as a candidate and someone that has already interviewed for Auburn’s open athletic director position. If Sanford’s word is anything to go by, he and George were very involved in getting the Buffs4Life NIL Collective off the ground.

While it should be expected that Colorado will be casting a wide net in terms of head coach candidates, Sanford has done everything right to this point to place himself firmly in the conversation to be the next Buffs’ head coach.

Speaking for the entire football program, Sanford called on Buff Nation again towards the end of his opening statement at Tuesday’s press conference.

“I’m calling on former Buff players, I’m calling on people in the CU community that support football and want us to have a great product on the field, this is where we have to go,” Sanford said.

For more information on the Buffs4Life NIL Collective, visit their website at b4lnilcollective.org.

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