USC NIL collective shuts down after death of its founder

Just days before his death, Dale Rech answered a phone call from his hospital bed.

Bill Hadden wanted to talk about Student Body Right, the names, images and likeness collective he and Rech started at USC in August against the university’s wishes. Hadden feared it would fall apart.

USC and its internal NIL operation BLVD had made it clear on many occasions that they viewed Student Body Right and their plan to pay every Trojans football player “the equivalent of a base salary” as an existential threat. Earlier this week, Rech had taken another call from his hospital bed — this time with USC’s athletic director Mike Bohn, who was adamant about his beliefs about the potentially harmful presence of a donor-led collective.

USC’s open opposition made things difficult, Hadden admitted. Fundraising proved more difficult than expected. Several potential donors, Hadden said, expressed concerns to him about the school’s impact when they supported student body rights.

Then there was the matter of Rech’s health. His kidneys failed. He had a blood clot in his calf. Doctors discussed putting stents in his heart. When Hadden heard him on the phone that day, he worried: his friend didn’t sound good.

Rech was the one who started Student Body Right. He had fought from his hospital bed for weeks to keep the collective alive, and at one point even offered to direct the first year himself. But now his own health was failing. Hadden asked if he was physically able to continue wearing it.

“I don’t think so,” admitted Rech.

Less than two months after starting, they decided together to shut down Student Body Right.

It was the last conversation the two longtime friends would have. Rech died a few days later on September 26.

“I think he knew deep down that he was preparing to leave,” Hadden told the Times. “That got him going. He blossomed.”

Until his health began to deteriorate last month, Rech hadn’t given much indication that he planned to shut down the new collective. In several conversations in August and early September, Rech shared with The Times plans to expand Student Body Right by using defunct Trojans alumni clubs as a fundraising network. With that future in mind, the collective had applied for – and been granted – 501c3 charity status. It also signed a partnership with NIL marketplace Opendorse to handle compliance and other logistical issues for the collective. More deals were in the works.

But even before Rech spent the last month of his life in the hospital, obstacles appeared. In his last phone call to the Times, Rech wondered aloud if the effort was worth it.

Rech told the Times before his death that since August he had been in discussions with Bohn and Mike Jones — the CEO of Stay Doubted, the outside media agency that worked with USC to create BLVD — about working with the in-house operations.

But the administrators remained steadfast in their opposition. Bohn and Jones expressed concern to The Times after its launch in August that any collective outside of the university’s oversight would invite the NCAA exam.

Rech insisted in response that Student Body Right had no intention of getting involved in recruitment, where the NCAA rules for NIL regularly blurred.

“This is an independent collective with no affiliation or ties to the university,” said Rech in August. “The NCAA cannot return to the university as long as we comply and comply with NCAA and state guidelines. There is no setback from us at the university. They just want control.”

In the meantime, BLVD officially started at the end of August and applied as a “collective plus”.

“We believe very much in the BLVD concept, not only because of what it can do for our student athletes, but also to make sure we’re following the rules, and it’s very good to have people involved in this business and Experts in this field are , very important to us,” USC football coach Lincoln Riley said in August when asked about the new donor-led collective. “Listen, this is new to all of us. It’s still evolving in all sorts of places across the country and I’m confident we’ll be able to bring everyone together and make sure it’s a collaborative effort.”

Resentment simmered between the two sides as student body rights pushed ahead with plans to pay Trojans football players a $50,000 base salary starting in January.

But these plans never came to fruition.

Hadden hasn’t quite given up hope that Student Body Right could one day find a foothold again. But without Rech — and his rolodex of USC alumni contacts — driving the collective forward, a path forward for Student Body Right remains unlikely.

However, Hadden still believes that USC and his now-defunct collective could have worked together if the circumstances had been different.

“It’s just too bad,” he said. USC NIL collective shuts down after death of its founder

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