Golden Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck’s comments last week about the urgency of increasing money for Name, Image and Likeness were calculated. Fleck, speaking on his radio show, pointed out his program lost players to other schools after last season because of NIL and that more money will be needed in the future to avoid an exodus of talent.
One likely concern is whether the Gophers can retain superb freshman running back Darius Taylor. Other Gopher targets by Power Five programs could include redshirt sophomore quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis and redshirt defensive end Anthony Smith.
Tampering with players at other schools and using NIL as a recruiting inducement isn’t legal but that’s standard operating procedure by many college football programs. The Gophers play by the rules while others (perhaps the majority of Power Five programs) don’t operate ethically and the NCAA appears almost toothless with its enforcement of policies.
Fleck made his public comments last week not only knowing he will have to recruit some of his own players to stay in Minneapolis after this season, but there will also be players from outside the program evaluating Minnesota’s reputation for NIL money. Included will be players in the transfer portal and high school prospects from the class of 2024. All will be aware of whether Minnesota is a place where NIL is strongly positioned.
Fleck isn’t saying retaining and attracting players to Minnesota is all about money. Far from it, as he sells the college experience and opportunity to be part of a program that emphasizes development of football skills, academics, personal character and community involvement.
Fleck, though, is concerned about having enough money to keep the Gophers competitive in the high paced recruiting environment of major college football. With 85 scholarship players, not all will be positioned to capitalize on their name, image and likeness in the marketplace, but many will. A commonsense guess is the Gophers need a couple million dollars available annually through the Dinkytown Athletes (DA) collective to meet their needs and have more money than many Power Five programs.
DA started up only a year ago and results are encouraging for NIL funding involving not only football but other sports at Minnesota. Money isn’t just given out to players. It’s earned with athletes available to provide instruction to youth, engage at fan events, make personal appearances for charities and businesses, and endorse products and services including their own.
A big moment can provide NIL opportunity for an athlete like it did with Gophers wide receiver Daniel Jackson in the opening game against Nebraska. He made an extraordinary toe-tapping TD catch in the game and DA later helped connect him with Athlete’s Thread to sell clothing celebrating the extraordinary reception.
“We have a lot of players on our football team right now who make a lot of money in NIL,” Fleck said. “It’s my job, (AD) Mark Coyle’s job, and our job with our NIL department and our collectives to go out and raise lots of money for our student athletes. And that’s what we’ve been doing. There’s been a lot of support from our fans and our alumni to help, because that’s the name of the game.”
An initiative announced last week was that Gray Duck Spirits is producing its first ever beer, Duck Duck Beer, along with a new seltzer Fan Pack, as part of a partnership with DA. The products, decorated in maroon and gold, are being sold in state liquor stores and bars and restaurants, with 20 percent of sales going to Dinkytown Athletes. At Huntington Bank Stadium fans can not only help the cause by buying Duck, Duck Beer but the Parlour burgers stand is giving its proceeds to DA.
Adding to the momentum of growing dollars for NIL at Minnesota are social events involving passionate Gophers fans who have the means to boost DA revenues for football and other sports with their checkbooks. And DA, which last week had its strongest membership week since last fall, has options for fans to support NIL starting at $10 per month membership, or boosters can make a one-time contribution of any amount.
Fleck is aware of the momentum for NIL at Minnesota and certainly was last week when he gave a shout-out that more NIL revenue is needed. He’s also grateful for the funding already in place.
A long time ago when the Gophers were winning Big Ten and even national championships, football players had off-the-field jobs provided by businesses in Minneapolis and elsewhere in the state. Those players were attracted to Minnesota because of academics, a winning football team and a jobs program that generously rewarded players. In a strong business community that still prevails, and with many fans who still care about Golden Gophers football, Fleck knows making the present like the past is a strategy deserving urgency.
Esko safety Koi Perich, the Gophers’ highest ranked 2024 recruit from the state, received a scholarship offer from USC last week. He is scheduled to attend the Minnesota-Michigan game Saturday night in Minneapolis, a recruiting authority told Sports Headliners.
Know how sweet a home win over Michigan next Saturday night would be for the Gophers? It’s been 46 years since Minnesota defeated the Wolverines in Minneapolis. In 1977 the Gophers pounded No. 1 ranked Michigan 16-0 at old Memorial Stadium.
Former Gophers running back Barry Mayer, who was second team All-Big Ten in 1970 and lettered three seasons at Minnesota, is relieved to have three major surgeries completed. In May he had back fusion, and knee replacements in August and September.
MLB.com ranks the Twins’ pitching staff third best among the 12 teams in the postseason, with the Brewers No. 1 and Blue Jays No. 2. Minnesota’s offense ranks No. 9, with the Blue Jays (who face the Twins starting today in a best of three series) at No. 8.
Starters Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez and Joe Ryan all rank in the top 10 in AL expected ERA. MLB.com also points out the club’s highest paid players, Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa, have OPS+ averages below the league average, and Minnesota led the majors in total strikeouts “by a wide margin.”Comments Welcome