Crimson Collective Doing NIL Utah’s Way

Apr 21, 2023, 4:36 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2023, 11:27 am

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah football celebrated the official launch of the Crimson Collective in an effort to keep the Utes competitive in college football’s ever-changing NIL landscape.

The newly launched NIL collective is spearheaded by Matt Garff with an executive board that includes a who’s who of former Utah football stars as well as prominent Utah alums and boosters. The Crimson Collective’s goal is to do NIL the “Utah way” with a particular focus on giving back to the community through charitable works.

Garff, along with Colorado Rockies owner and Utah alum Charlie Monfort, former Utah safety Bo Nagahi, Utah quarterback Cam Rising, Crimson Collective marketing director Geoff Lee, head coach Kyle Whittingham, and athletic director Mark Harlan were all on hand to mark the momentous occasion at the Field Club in the Ken Garff Red Zone.


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Utah And NIL

As of July 1, 2021 student- athletes have been able to monetize their name, image, and likeness. Some schools jumped right into the mix, while others, like Utah have taken their time to understand the ins and outs, as well as what would work best for their culture, athletes, and community.

One of the first steps the Utes proactively took a month ahead of the announcement of NIL was their Elevate U program that partnered with the Lassonde Institute and Eccles School of Business. Elevate U was designed to help educate student-athletes with the tools and resources they would need to manage NIL when it became legal.

Utah further bolstered the effort of Elevate U by launching Elevate Exchange last summer that created an NIL marketplace for their student-athletes in an expanded partnership with INFLCR whom the school has worked with since 2020.

Last year, Utah gymnastics celebrated the launch of their very own NIL collective, Who Rocks The House. The Utes have also enjoyed more sponsorship-like partnerships in the NIL world with Utah alum owned businesses such as C.W. Urban.

However, getting a full-fledged football collective off the ground with the hopes of eventually growing it to where it can help other sports within the Utah Athletics umbrella has been a process. Getting the right people involved with the right mindset, along with getting the university’s stamp of approval has been key in the Crimson Collective’s launch and hopeful future success according to Garff.

“There are a lot of passionate people that want to make a difference,” Garff said. “We’re gaining momentum by the day and that’s what this is all about. We need to invite everyone to come play with us. Every donation counts. Donation of time counts, people’s voices matter. We need to spread the word.”

Part of what has pushed the Crimson Collective group into action were words spoken by head coach Kyle Whittingham last October who earnestly predicted the Top 25 teams in the country will likely be there due largely to what their NIL looks like moving forward.

“There is going to be a time in the very, very near future where the Top-25 NIL pots of money are going to mirror exactly the Top-25 teams in the country.” – Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham

With the Utes seeing unprecedented success the past two seasons in football, Garff, Monfort and others involved with the Crimson Collective want to see Utah continue to be in the elite conversation for years to come.

“Being in sports business now, hopefully I can add some sort of thoughts and some things that could help with our collective moving forward,” Monfort said. “More importantly, it’s just my way of staying engaged at the U. It’s the way of the world in college sports now and we’ve got to do it the ‘Utah way’. Do it the right way and do it in a successful way.”

Doing NIL The Utah Way

One size doesn’t always fit all and that is certainly the case for the Utes. Utah has and always will be a community that thrives off of community, meaning getting involved and making NIL more than an empty exchange of money to student-athletes was never going to fly with the culture here.

That’s why Garff and company set out to make the Crimson Collective a 501(c)(3) or public charity. The goal is to set up student-athletes with other charities through the Crimson Collective to make meaningful impacts in the community by using social and in-person influences to shine a light on areas of need.

As a bonus, fans who donate to the Crimson Collective can get a tax credit due to it being a charitable donation, all while helping Utah toward their goal of having a $5 million annual budget.

“The first thing is doing this the right way,” athletic director Mark Harlan said. “It has substance to it, not just style. We want this to be an opportunity for the students to earn, but also to learn. Then the connection to the community, the idea they will support charities is something I think they can take with them when this experience is all over. It’s going to be an authentic approach. That was something I was insistent on, and certainly the Garffs were insistent on it, so it’s all come together in that manner.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports


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Crimson Collective Doing NIL Utah’s Way