COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — College athletics come with big money.
Since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ratified the state’s name, image, and likeness law in 2021, schools are no longer the only ones making money. Athletes are now getting paid big bucks. In the first year of NIL, estimates put the total amount paid to student athletes north of $915 million.
Buckeyes fans from all over Thursday night had the chance to see what a world with NIL might look like. More than 800 people packed onto the floor of the Schottenstein Center for the first ever spring festival put on by the The Foundation, a nonprofit Ohio State NIL collective.
Real estate developer Brian Schottenstein and former Buckeyes quarterback Cardale Jones started The Foundation, with a vision of providing events and access to athletes for fans while raising money for those athletes and partnering with other area nonprofits.
“Every dollar goes to the student athletes,” Schottenstein said. “If you’re going to the games or spending money on the suites or tickets or whatever, that money doesn’t go to the student athletes, but ours does.”
Thursday’s event gave fans the opportunity to purchase tickets from anywhere between $125 and $10,000 to hang out with players and coaches, play games with them, take pictures, get autographs, and share a meal.
Ohio State football coach Ryan Day and basketball coach Chris Holtmann gave remarks at the event and answered questions for fans as part of a panel.
“This is not going away,” Day said. “The conversations around NIL are critically important and I think events like this are going to be part of our future.”
More than 40 current and former Ohio State University athletes were in attendance — chatting with fans, taking pictures and answering questions for about an hour prior to the main event.
“This is such a great event, just to meet all the people that support us and be able to give back to this amazing community,” said Buckeyes quarterback Devin Brown.
Fans were more than excited to see their on-field heroes in real life.
“For the fans to interact with the players and stuff, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of us,” said Tim Weyland, a life-long Buckeyes fan. “It’s been really neat. You get a little starstruck. You know, here comes Ryan Day, walking ten feet within touching distance, or Tommy Eichenberg, or Mayan Williams, guys that you watch on TV.”
For other fans it was their first time inside the Schottenstein Center.
Ryan Tackett smiled ear to ear when he had the chance to take his picture with Buckeyes running back Mayan Williams. Tackett had a clear message for next season: “We’re going to go win it all. And this time we’re going to beat Michigan,” he said.
It was also Tackett’s first time in the Schottenstein.
But NIL has not been all rosey.
Ohio State is competing with other schools to make sure they are offering opportunities for players to make money — and it’s bit the Buckeyes once so far.
Number one quarterback recruit Quinn Ewers graduated high school early before enrolling in school in Columbus. He took an estimated $1 million in NIL money — but was at Ohio State for less than a year before transferring.