USC coach Lincoln Riley gestures during a team practice in March.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

USC and UCLA donors have not announced collectives — yet. It feels like an inevitability, despite the schools’ efforts to separate themselves with their support of legitimate NIL activity.

UCLA provided training for every athlete before and shortly after the NIL rule changes, partnering with the business school and other campus resources with the goal of helping every Bruins athlete to make informed NIL decisions.

In April, UCLA announced it was creating Westwood Exchange, which allows businesses, donors, fans and alumni to register with the school so that they can connect with athletes seeking NIL deals that could include autograph sessions, private lessons in their respective sports, public appearances, athletic camps and social media promotion, among other possibilities. The initiative is geared toward small, local businesses that want to engage UCLA athletes and could be especially beneficial in landing deals for those who compete in lower-profile sports.

On June 15, USC announced an agreement with Stay Doubted, which calls itself “a modern-day media agency empowering the next generation of student-athletes and fans, to provide enhanced NIL services to its student-athletes.” The message was that the Trojans won’t need a collective to be competitive in NIL among all sports, not just football.

“What is important for the general reader to understand is that NIL has created a need for new positions within college athletic departments — not just one, but five, six, because of so much inbound demand,” Lawrence says. “Compliance offices are turning into talent agents and marketing agents, and reviewing agreements. This is outside of their experience. A sign that a school is truly committed to NIL is they are hiring full-time staffers or contractors that serve in a similar capacity.”

Says Heitner, who worked with USC on its Stay Doubted partnership: “I hear from athletes and their families often that they don’t feel they’re receiving competent representation. Surely the starting quarterback at USC is going to have experienced agents representing them, but what about the remainder of the athletes?”

How long until Stay Doubted and Westwood Exchange are joined by a full-fledged USC and UCLA collectives?

Stay tuned.

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