Hardesty: Blue and Gold scores a win toward keeping the Flashes competitive

Kent State men's basketball coach Rob Senderoff at the Blue & Gold Collective's Season Tip-Off NIL Fundraiser at the Lake House Kitchen + Bar in Kent. Submitted photo

The Kent State men’s basketball team has officially dipped a toe into the wild, uncharted Name, Image, Likeness fundraising waters.

The next step will be to dive right in.

The Blue & Gold Collective, which was founded by Mike Beder, Edmond Mack and Mark Frisone and launched in July 2022, held its inaugural Kent State Men’s Basketball Season Tip-Off NIL Fundraiser on Oct. 30 at the Lake House Kitchen + Bar in Kent. Attendees enjoyed complimentary cocktails and appetizers and got a 2023-24 season preview from Golden Flashes head coach Rob Senderoff and members of the team.

And, most importantly in this new NIL era of collegiate athletics, it served its purpose by bringing in money for the men’s basketball program and sparking interest in how KSU fans can help going forward.

“It was a huge success. We raised over $10,000,” Beder said. “$500 was donated by the team to Kent Social Services. Each player from the men’s basketball team was given a check for $500 for their appearance at the event, and the rest will be earmarked for basketball recruiting in the future. Lake House Kitchen + Bar donated 100% of the food, drink and labor costs, so every dime contributed went right to basketball.

“The event raised a higher amount than we expected and also started multiple discussions of how to help in the future. It is all still a daunting task but definitely feels more attainable than ever.”

So far, the Blue & Gold Collective is the only NIL collective serving Kent State (collectives operate independently from universities in accordance with NCAA rules – such as they are). Therefore, Blue & Gold will play an increasingly important role for KSU athletics in a college sports landscape that has turned into the “wild west,” as Beder told Round 2 back in August.

“I’m not naive enough to think we’d win a bidding war [for an athlete] with a larger school,” Beder said then, “but at least the collective may be able to get us in the conversation and be a factor along with playing time, facilities, atmosphere and scholastics. … I think the collective will help in staying competitive within the conference.”

And that’s where fundraisers like Blue & Gold’s Oct. 30 event come in: The more money an NIL collective can raise, the better chance that school’s athletic programs have of succeeding. It won’t guarantee championships, but “having a healthy NIL program is vital for success,” Senderoff told Round 2 last month. “We are never going to have a collective or NIL program that competes with Ohio State and Xavier. But, with there being 350+ DI basketball programs, in order for us to maintain any relevance, we need to have a program that can compete with schools like ours across the country. That’s what makes basketball, and men’s basketball in particular, so unique. We not only have the Power 5, but we have hundreds of other universities that can use NIL/Collectives to change the trajectory of the talent coming in and staying with their programs.

“So, I am extremely grateful that this collective has been set up and hopeful that people in the community want to support this initiative in whatever way they can.”

And to that end, events like the one Oct. 30 aren’t the only way the Blue & Gold Collective raises NIL money for Kent State athletics. Fans and supporters can donate to the Blue and Gold Collective anytime by contacting Beder at 330-815-0747.

“We’ll look for ways to raise funds and also find opportunities for the players in the future,” Beder said, “and we are in the planning stages of a golf outing for the collective in March.”

Stay tuned to Round 2 for any information regarding future Blue & Gold Collective fundraisers.



Remember the days when Ohio State’s Jim Tressel was getting run out of college football – permanently, as it turned out – and vilified by the media, particularly ESPN, as Public Enemy No. 1 for allegedly failing to disclose to the NCAA that a handful of his Buckeye players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, exchanged memorabilia for tattoos? That was in 2010, and it led to the NCAA levying sanctions against the Ohio State football program, including scholarship reductions, a postseason ban and vacated wins, that would have waylaid the Buckeyes for a decade or more if Urban Meyer hadn’t arrived just in the nick of time to rescue the Scarlet and Gray from certain oblivion.

Well, keep tattoos-for-memorabilia in mind as you read this list of the highest-paid college athletes in the country based on their NIL valuation. We’ll start at the bottom and work up to No. 1 (as of September 2023):

20. Blake Corum, Michigan football – $1.1 million.

19. Flau’jae Johnson, LSU women’s basketball – $1.1 million.

18. Jared McCain, Duke men’s basketball – $1.1 million.

17. Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee football – $1.1 million.

16. Jordan Travis, Florida State football – $1.2 million.

15. Hansel Emmanuel, Austin Peay men’s basketball – $1.2 million.

14. Quinn Ewers, Texas football – $1.2 million.

13. Bryce James, Notre Dame High School boys basketball (Sherman Oaks, California); committed to Duquesne University – $1.2 million.

12. Michael Penix Jr., Washington football – $1.3 million.

11. Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State football – $1.4 million.

10. Bo Nix, Oregon football – $1.4 million.

9. Drake Maye, North Carolina football – $1.5 million.

8. Angel Reese, LSU women’s basketball – $1.7 million.

7. Evan Stewart, Texas A&M football – $1.7 million.

6. Travis Hunter, Colorado football – $1.8 million.

5. Caleb Williams, USC football – $2.6 million.

4. Arch Manning, Texas football – $2.9 million.

3. Olivia Dunne, LSU women’s gymnastics – $3.2 million.

2. Shedeur Sanders, Colorado football – $4.1 million.

1. Bronny James, USC basketball – $6.1 million.

We’re a long way from 2010, aren’t we?


Some thoughts on the list:

– It’s good to be a child of LeBron James. Bronny, the eldest of three, is the richest college athlete in the country, while younger brother Bryce is a millionaire and still in high school. And LeBron probably would have pulled in more than both of them combined if NIL was a thing back in his St. Vincent-St. Mary days 20 years ago. I firmly believe that whole episode with LeBron and the Hummer while he was at St. V planted the first seeds of NIL, because that’s when people started to ask: “Why shouldn’t LeBron be paid for endorsements? His talent is making a lot of money for everyone else, why not him too?”

– There’s a lot of cash rolling around that University of Texas quarterbacks room. Starter Quinn Ewers – who began his career at Ohio State before transferring back to his home state – and third-string Arch Manning make $4.1 million between them. The catch: Manning makes more standing on the sidelines ($2.9 million) than Ewers does standing in the line of fire ($1.2 million). Manning’s name recognition – he’s Peyton and Eli’s nephew and the grandson of Archie – and the astronomical expectations that come with it are why he makes the big bucks. He’s also going to be pretty good, too.

– LSU has three athletes on the list, and all three play women’s sports. That includes gymnast Olivia Dunne, the highest-paid female athlete in college athletics. Only Bronny James and Shedeur Sanders, son of Colorado football head coach Deion Sanders, rank ahead of her.


A quick glance at that list makes the days of getting busted by the NCAA for getting tattoos seem quaint – and absurd. Looking at it through the lens of today, Terrelle Pryor and company essentially got kicked out of college football for something the NCAA now allows; what’s more, it turns out that Pryor and his mates weren’t paid anywhere near their actual NIL worth at the time. I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on something like this, but the NCAA – or someone – owes them a lot of money, up to and including damaging their stock in the NFL Draft.


And Tressel’s victories in 2010 as Ohio State coach should be reinstated. If the premise of vacating those victories was that he allegedly covered for players getting tattoos in exchange for memorabilia, and that practice is now legal in the eyes of the NCAA if done through the proper channels (there were no proper channels for it in 2010), then it stands to reason that the wins in 2010 should be reinstated.

Yes, it was a rules violation at the time. But the punishment has been served, and the wins were vacated under archaic rules that have since been updated for relevance in the 21st century.

If you were sitting in jail for a crime that the Supreme Court ruled was no longer a crime, you would fully expect to be let out within the hour.

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.