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Name, Image and Likeness changed the landscape of college football. Players that were previously handcuffed to amateurism under the intentionally equivocal term “student-athlete” are finally able to profit off of their person while in school.
As a result, now more than ever, money plays a massive role in how things operate. That has always been the case, but NIL has created a bigger emphasis on financial wealth.
In turn, there is a significant divide between programs with deep pockets and those without.
Penn State is one of the latter. While the Nittany Lions program is undoubtedly one of the blue bloods in the sport, navigating finances in Pennsylvania is a different task than programs in the SEC, or USC, or even an Ohio State. The money available, at least right now, just isn’t the same.
While NIL collectives continue to pop up across the country, there is one in State College that is taking a different approach. The ‘WE ARE…’ Collective, formerly known as the Nittany Commonwealth, is finding its own lane within the space.
WE ARE president Michael Krentzman is focused on putting players and their futures first, and their families second.
“There is a lot of opportunity to a lot of good for a lot of people using a Collective model,” Krentzman said. “The current state of college football is totally different than when I was a little boy begging my dad to take me to a game. Nobody could even imagine all of this back then. With that said, NIL is helping a lot of people and WE ARE wants to be a part of that.”
Penn State’s WE ARE… Collective Is Historic
One of the things that WE ARE is doing differently has made them groundbreakers within the NIL world. It recently became the first known collective to purchase catastrophic injury insurance for a college athlete and will continue to do so with others.
In this instance, WE ARE purchased permanent total disability insurance for offensive lineman Caeden Wallace. The 6-foot-5, 301-pound tackle is expected to go pro.
Should Wallace, a redshirt junior, not declare for the NFL this year, he will next year. He could even be drafted as early as Day 2, depending on how things go over the next seven months.
If — God forbid — something was to happen to Wallace, he is covered by an insurance package that was purchased for him by Krentzman’s collective.
“There are only a select group of players who have this option, and for those that do, it will be expensive,” he said. “If a player wants to buy a multi-million policy, it will be an expensive premium, right? That is where we come in. I have an agent who handles the insurance company and once that is settled and the policy is finalized, WE ARE is able to pay that premium for the player. Wallace is the first.”
WE ARE does not plan to stop at Wallace. It has plans in place to purchase insurance for several other Nittany Lions football players.
In some instances, Penn State’s athletic department may have already purchased insurance for a specific player. WE ARE will purchase additional coverage beyond what is being offered by the school.
WE ARE’s Insurance Focus Is Unlike Any Other NIL Entity
The Collective’s value for the athletes in State College and University Park is immense.
College football’s governing body, the NCAA, has long avoided the conversation that needed to be had about insurance. The aforementioned term “student-athlete” was created so that the NCAA would not be liable to properly compensate its
employees student-athletes. That also goes for providing proper insurance.
Krentzman and his Collective are having the conversation on their own. They are doing what the NCAA has long failed to do and hope to raise $6-10 million.
“Every player that we can buy insurance for, we are going to,” Krentzman said. “To do that, we need the resources. I want to do as much good for Penn State athletes as possible and it takes a strong backing to do that.”
However, there are some stipulations. Not all of Penn State’s athletes will qualify for disability insurance.
Those that do must reach certain health and physical qualifications. They must also have the potential to be a top NFL Draft pick, or at the very minimum, make the league.
In addition, there are some hurdles when it comes to getting it done. To get insurance requires a mandatory process that includes doctors appointments, interviews, and paperwork.
Some athletes at Penn State and across the country, might lack the support system to help them navigate the necessary steps. That can prove to be a challenge.
WE ARE Wants To Help
Beyond insurance, Krentzman and the WE ARE Collective is looking for unconventional ways to give Penn State athletes a financial backing and support. They are getting creative.
There are very few college athletes who would not want their parents in the stands for every game. Or for at least one game. Many of their families, though, cannot afford to make the trip.
Between airfare and housing — hotels in college towns typically jack up the prices to ridiculous rates on game weekends — it’s costly. And then you factor in meals, drinks, tickets, etc.
To try and bridge some of that gap, Krentzman is hoping to cover the cost for the families of WE ARE Collective athletes. Whether it be paying for plane tickets, or finding people in the State College area to provide an extra bedroom who are willing to host parents for a few nights, Krentzman wants to help. He wants to make sure every athlete has a chance to play in front of their families.
WE ARE Thinks Outside Of The Box
Another idea, though still in the incubation stage, revolves around defensive back Ji’Ayir Brown’s love of chess. He grew up playing the strategic board game with his grandfather and uses it to clear his head. According to those inside the program, he is legit. He doesn’t lose.
Krentzman wants to host an online tournament and give Brown the proceeds. Penn State fans, college football fans, and chess fans, could compete for the title. Whoever wins then gets to play Brown in a best-of-three series.
It’s a really cool, unique idea that sets WE ARE apart from other Collectives.
Krentzman is doing things differently and it stems from his desire to stand out in the Wild West that is NIL. The WE ARE approach is also rooted in Krentzman’s passions for Penn State, University Park, Pennsylvania, and people.
“If I can be the guy that solves a problem for the program, and everyone’s family has a wonderful experience when they come to where I live and am proud of— that’s who we want to be,” he said. “I love my state the way that Southerners love their state. If I can bring that same feeling to players and their families, it would be a success.”
That is the WE ARE way. That is what makes WE ARE different.