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‘It’s Big Time’: Pat Narduzzi Understands Importance of Pitt’s New Team-Wide NIL Deal



It was BYU in 2021, and then Texas Tech last year, but that seems like it’s it. I may have missed it, but I believe that only BYU, Texas Tech and now Pitt have announced team-wide NIL deals.

Alliance 412 hasn’t announced the exact numbers, but with a seven-figure team-wide deal in place, each of Pitt’s 85 student-athlete will receive a five-figure NIL payment as part of Alliance 412’s new Oakland Originals initiative — which will also feature a first-of-its-kind marketing agency for Pitt student-athletes.

It’s certainly game-changing in the NIL landscape, but it’s also highly necessary in the overall landscape of college athletics.

“Chris Bickell has been unbelievable since I’ve gotten here,” Pat Narduzzi said before practice Friday. “He’s become a great friend, he’s a huge supporter of Pitt football and he’s taking care of our guys. I can’t thank him enough for everything he does for this program. It took us a while to get where we are, but we did it the right way, or he did it the right way and got it done.”

Bickell, a Pitt alumni who founded Alliance 412, which is Pitt’s preferred NIL collective, has been integral in Pitt’s NIL efforts since Day 1. Narduzzi’s official title is the “Chris Bickell ’97 Head Coach,” after all.

The team — led by Bickell, COO Jeff Goldberg, and Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer John Pelusi — joined forces with Jaster Athletes, an athlete marketing agency launched by CEO Jordon Rooney, to launch Oakland Originals. The group has plans to bring resources to Pitt athletes that it claims cannot be found anywhere else across the college athletics landscape.

It isn’t as if Pitt’s student-athletes are receiving their fair share of revenue. Narduzzi himself believes that his players should benefit from their name, image and likeness. But it has to be fair — across the board.

“I think it was long enough that the kids weren’t getting what they really should get,” Narduzzi said. “We had cost of attendance, where they were getting, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you — $4,500 a year, just based on where you’re located with the federal government and all of that. I don’t know how we got there, but it’s a good thing.

“Like I said a couple of weeks ago, we still need a salary cap on all of that. Everybody’s still gotta be working from the same game plan. Whether the salary cap is at the top, I think it’s got to be that way.”

Of course, there will be tiers when it comes to earning potential. A variety of factors will be taken into account when it comes to NIL payouts, which include on- and off-the-field performance, and it’s the kind of deal — once again — that Narduzzi understands.

“There are guys that have tiered payments and guys who’re gonna have special deals whether that’s Kenny Pickett or Calijah Kancey, they’ve had those guys in the past,” Narduzzi said. “So, to me, I tell our guys all the time you earn what you get. You put it out there on the field and that’s why we come to work every day. You bring your helmet with you and you go out there and try to obviously make the team better, make the university better and make your bank account better.”

It’s a major opportunity for Pitt football. Regardless if you’re the starting quarterback or a fourth-string defensive end. There is a financial benefit for all of Pitt’s 85 student-athletes.

The NIL opportunity wasn’t what led Daejon Reynolds to Pitt (highlighting the offense itself and the quarterbacks room) after he transferred from Florida to Pitt over the winter, but it’s definitely something he’s happy to be a part of.

“I’m very grateful,” Reynolds said after practice Friday. “I saw LeSean McCoy on there talking and stuff like that. I’m very grateful for the new NIL thing that we’re getting. That’s always good.”

But that NIL opportunity also isn’t the end-all, be-all for Pitt football. There are student-athletes at Pitt who truly don’t care about making money — they just want to play ball.

“I just play football, I really don’t care too much about the money,” Samuel Okunlola said after practice Friday. “I just love playing football.”

When it comes to a unit like the offensive line, perhaps the most underrated unit on the team, Jason Collier Jr. sees it as a way for the offensive linemen to continue to give back with the use of NIL — as linemen like Carter Warren and Deslin Alexandre have over the last few years.

“It was nice, obviously everyone has their own individual deals, which helps out everyone in different ways,” Collier said after practice Friday. “For a team wide, we were talking about it and it’s not something that we’re gonna be like, ‘Oh, we need, we need, we need,’ this is to give back to the community, to kinda show highlights of everybody in their own little spot. Like O-line one day, D-line the next.”

Collier himself is going to save up his NIL and make sure he has something to show from his time at Pitt — if he isn’t able to turn his play into an NFL opportunity. He’s thinking about the team first and foremost, and that’s the sort of approach Narduzzi wanted to see from Pitt.

“Chris Bickell is a good friend, so we’ve talked about, hey, what I’d like to have. To me, it’s about ‘We, we.’ We’ve got that sign right over there,” Narduzzi said. “It’s ‘We, not me,’ and it bothered me when some guys had it and I’ve seen locker rooms torn apart across the country when someone’s making all this and you’re bringing a freshman class in making whatever and then you’ve got guys starting on the team not making anything.

“It just doesn’t make any sense to me. Everybody needs to be together and we’ve got to make it the same as much as we can. I can’t control the money, but it’s a team thing. Chris Bickell knows that’s kind of what we wanted.”

In the current age of college athletics, especially when it comes to football and basketball, NIL — like it or not — is a major factor in fielding competitive teams. Whether that means retaining or adding. And with Pitt’s push for NIL, it’s a major factor in just playing the game going forward.

“I think it’s big time,” Narduzzi said. “I think there are a lot of places that have it in place. Again, nobody knows what everybody is doing, that’s the other thing. But everybody has got something in place, but I don’t know if anybody’s got a team-wide deal. That would be a great study.

It’s run by Chris Bickell. It’s Alliance 412, and it’s greatly appreciated. Heather (Lyke) is all behind it, our athletic department is behind it and obviously, the university is behind it.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 month ago

MJ use to take less to be compettive a roster complete in Chicago. TB12 supposedly took less in New England to be competitive. And I have read where Aaron Rodgers is doing the same with the Jets. If Duzz thinks it is big-time he can shed a couple of mill and re-direct it toward the NIL pool. It’s not clear why the Alumni should be funding the talent pool. It’s almost similar to having income tax and then having to pay tax again when you go to spend it from sales. Perhaps NCAA needs a VAT for athletes, dial up… Read more »

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