Challenges await USC’s NIL efforts with the new BLVD and Student Body Right collegiate

LOS ANGELES – A little over three years ago, Bryce Young was still committed to the USC program when he stood inside the ballroom at The Grand in Long Beach, California, on Trinity League Media Day.

It was a tough morning for the Trojans’ recruiting efforts. USC was a finalist for Bejan Robinson, but the five-star winner in the back picked Texas over the Trojans and Ohio. The most shocking news came later when five-star Justin Floy, one of the best players to have come across Southern California in a decade, wasn’t USC on his list of four finalists.

Young put on a brave face and suggested he continue to enlist Flowe at USC despite the news.

He said, “I’m still up to the guys whether they bring in SC, take us out, or they’re really committed somewhere” the athlete that day. “I feel like there are a lot of changes in college football. There is a lot that you cannot control as a recruit. There is a lot that you cannot control and because of that, sometimes things change.”

The truth, according to a source familiar with this recruiting, is that USC’s inability to brief Young with elite recruits on that course was a troubling concern. Clay Hilton was a USC coach at the time, and persistent rumors about his job security—along with an inept crew of recruits—hampered the program’s ability to bring in top talent.

USC’s football program and its recruiting efforts are on more stable ground these days, mainly due to its impressive hiring of Lincoln Riley, one of the sport’s preeminent coaching stars, last November.

Shortly after that hire, five-star Malachi Nelson in 2023, perhaps the best QB prospect to come through SoCal since Young, changed his commitment from Oklahoma, the former Riley station, to USC. Nelson’s reversal marked the start of a wave in December that included commitments from fellow 2022 prospects Domani Jackson and Ralick Brown, as well as five-star 2023 receivers Branch Zacharias and McKay Lemon.

Titled by Nelson, Branch, and Lemon — each ranked in the top 50 nationally — the USC 2023 class currently ranks 12th. That’s certainly nothing to write off. But with the increased prevalence of NIL and third-party groups over the past eight months, USC’s recruitment momentum has slowed. At the same time, Miami, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Oregon emerged with powerful groups or donors (John Ruiz, in the case of Miami), and their recruitment benefited. These developments intensified the fears of Trojans fans who believed that NIL’s efforts at their school were lagging behind.

In June, USC announced its partnership with media agency Stay Doubted, which created BLVD LLC. To serve as USC’s NIL organ and work with its student-athletes to generate/develop financial opportunities. This was supposed to serve the function of the collegiate group but with more oversight so that the school could avoid some NCAA scrutiny and enhance the influence that comes from the group.

That didn’t dispel doubts about USC’s NIL efforts among some of the show’s most ardent fans, and Tuesday’s news revealed that “Student Body Right,” an actual group—without school oversight—will soon be coming to USC.

“We are only interested in nurturing our ‘children’, who are in school, are academically qualified and on the football team,” said Del Rich, who led the creation of the group, which goes against USC’s original NIL intentions. Plans for how Student Body Right aims have not yet been revealed. to achieve its goals, and will have to do so without ties to the training staff that will be given to BLVD.

Of course, this generated a lot of headlines and excitement from USC fans, who have been wary of Trojans recruiting lately, especially since many of the elite offensive linemen have chosen to stick elsewhere despite the strong push from the Trojans.

However, Rich insists that Student Body Right will not interfere with the program’s recruitment efforts. He said, “We have nothing to do with recruitment, we will not interfere. That is not what we are interested in.”

All along, USC fans have been concerned about how the NIL will be used in the recruitment pathway by some schools with more aggressive collegiate groups. Despite the announcement of a new batch, the challenge remains the same for BLVD, Student Body Right, and any other NIL initiatives coming and going to USC: How will they appeal to elite recruits who are increasingly paid up front before they ever set foot. Campus?

There has been a lot of discussion about Nelson lately, mainly because he made an unofficial visit to Texas A&M – one of the schools with a strong group – late last month. Some fans, of course, were concerned about what might be presented to Nelson on his trip and what the repercussions might be for the employment chapter at USC.

The truth is that Nelson will get solid bargains with none wherever he goes. Could it be more at Texas A&M? Yes, but the five-star quarterback, arguably the best in the country, would be making a lot of money at USC. The sense in the employment scene is that the trip wasn’t necessarily about zero money.

According to sources familiar with Nelson’s recruitment, the focus is more on what players are surrounded by Nelson at this point. In this current landscape, elite players sign contracts with groups while still in their junior year of high school.

Both BLVD and Student Body Right confirmed that they are not in the business of talking to recruits, only student-athletes who are already registered. So the onus is on them to find a way to resonate with both the players USC recruits and the prospects who have escaped — like facing the 2022 five-star Josh Conley Jr. (USC rejected it in Oregon) and the 2023 five-star attack that Francis dealt with. Mawegwa (Miami committed).

If the goal is to maintain Nelson’s commitment, the highest priority should be to surround the representative with the best possible protection and support. And while it may be inconvenient to pay high school students who have not yet proven anything, if NIL funds are not directly used for this purpose, adding this talent may be more difficult than anticipated.

Rich said that the right of the student’s body was It was initially modeled after the NIL Collegiate in Texas that pays attack airline workers $50,000 a year to support charitable causes. The planning behind it began after Connerley signed with Oregon, a decision some vociferous USC fans believe was motivated by the NIL.

USC’s NIL friction will be great to monitor over the next few weeks and months because this new group, which will not have any ties to USC, operates in the same space as BLVD. USC made its position clear in a statement from athletic director Mike Boone:

“USC has no prior awareness and was not involved in the NIL pool created by donors, and strongly discourages anyone from taking actions that could inadvertently violate NCAA regulations. We ask that any donors who wish to support USC student athletes through NIL work with BLVD until all activities are conducted in accordance with state laws and USC policy.”

Rech, took a more optimistic view: “We want to live with BLVD. … We encourage people to contribute to BLVD because they did something very smart.”

Rich said there are donors who have been alienated by former athletic directors, decisions in the sports department or the university itself over the past few years, and that they “want to donate to the football team, but they don’t want the university to decide where to go.”

BLVD initially said only 50 percent of a specific donation will go to a specific sport, but that percentage will drop dramatically soon in an effort to provide more flexibility.

Rich made some waves when he said he wanted to pay student-athletes a base salary. He did not give a scope for what it could be.

“We want to provide the ability for USC student football to lead a normal student life without worrying about day-to-day expenses,” he said. “That’s all we do.”

He later added, “We are wrestling with that (what is the base salary)”.

Sharing BLVD and Student Body Right in an adjacent space would likely cause some confusion, and some of their ideals would be different, but the challenge of what awaits them both has never been clearer.

(Photo by Malachi Nelson: Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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