If you need proof that name, image and likeness dollars already have been distributed to some Pitt athletes, Jeff Goldberg suggests looking back a few months.
“You see it on the rosters already,” said Goldberg, chief operating officer of Alliance 412, the collective created to help Pitt compete in the NIL world. “Did you go to basketball (games) last (season)?”
John Pelusi, chief strategy and business development officer for Alliance 412, said “NIL is definitely a contributor to allowing success and allowing (coach Jeff Capel) to mold and shape that team.”
NIL is here to stay, and Alliance 412 is ratcheting up its efforts. To that end, the collective announced an initiative Tuesday that will provide student-athletes with more than money. Alliance 412 has created its own marketing entry called Oakland Originals, whose aim is to offer student-athletes resources and the opportunity for business partnerships, with an eye toward a future beyond athletics. It also will seek to help promote athletes’ efforts in community service and charitable causes.
Pitt defensive tackle David Green, for example, has started an effort to raise $22,222 for the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. Green wears No. 2 on his Pitt jersey.
“It’s nice for players to get paid due to NIL,” said Jordan Rooney, whose company, Jaster Creative, has partnered with Alliance 412 to help student-athletes build their brands. “But how do we give them more resources? How do we help them where NIL isn’t just a one-time thing?”
Rooney said Oakland Originals will oversee the personal brand for any Pitt athlete whose career originated in Oakland.
“It’s around the clock, providing the service for the athletes to build their brands in an impactful manner. Any athlete who signs through the collective gets these resources that no other athlete is being able to get. It’s not just money. It’s mentorship.
“I think it’s a myth that every athlete cares about money. Sure, they want to be compensated, but for them they really care about building their brand. They want to be entrepreneurs. They want to start their own businesses.”
One of the aims of Oakland Originals is to help student-athletes learn entrepreneurial development, Rooney said.
“Partner with a plumber and throw your face on a plumbing van,” he said. “You can get connected with a restaurant investor. How do we help these athletes become entrepreneurs?”
Alliance 412 was founded by businessman Chris Bickell, who donated $20 million to the Pitt football program two years ago.
“He called me up,” Goldberg said, “and said, ‘I gave a lot of money, but I want to do more.’ ”
Alliance 412 is working with a group of donors and is seeking more, but Goldberg declined to quantify their number, the funds in the collective or its operating budget.
Nonetheless, NIL matters as athletic programs compete for the best players.
“NIL is really running the college landscape right now,” said Pelusi, a former Pitt football player who spent 5 1/2 years working in the university’s Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program.
“The big focus is to continue to make the University of Pittsburgh the top destination for student-athletes, from recruitment to retention to the transfer portal. They are all the buckets we really need to focus on to be at the top of the country in what we do.”
Pelusi, whose father, John, is a member of Pitt’s Board of Trustees and played on Pitt’s 1976 national championship team, said there is a significant need in college athletics for NIL assistance.
“You can go across the board and ask any of our coaches a couple years ago, ‘What was your top priority?’ It may have been facilities,” Pelusi said. “It may have been X, Y or Z. But if you go back to those same coaches today, NIL is going to be No. 1 or No. 2 on that list. It’s important for Pitt supporters to understand that.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .