Column: Michigan’s “One More Year” Fund returns players, raises concerns

Ayron Rutan, Staff Writer

At the conclusion of every season, University of Michigan football fans eagerly await the announcements of its star players and seniors as to whether they will be declaring for the NFL draft or returning to campus for another year on the gridiron. The end of the 2022 season was no different. Following the College Football Playoff semi-final loss to TCU, many fans held hope that key players like Blake Corum, Zak Zinter and Cornelius Johnson would return to Ann Arbor.

The maize and blue faithful decided to take matters into their own hands, and earlier this month the “One More Year” fund was launched. Organized by Valiant Management, a sports marketing agency at U-of-M, the One More Year fund is a fundraiser that aims to support Michigan football players in their return to the team for an additional year. Fans hope that returning players will help lead the team to a 2023 CFP National Championship in what would be their first since 1997 and first outright since 1948.

The fund operates under the NCAA’s guidelines for name, image and likeness earnings (commonly referred to as “NIL”), already raising a total of $104,400 in supporter contributions.

Since its launch, the campaign has succeeded in bringing back all of the previously mentioned players in addition to key defensive members like DT Kris Jenkins.

While the One More Year Fund presents itself as an innovative NIL model at the surface, it raises a number of concerns. It most notably goes against the original idea behind why NIL pay was approved in the first place. NIL was designed so that players could receive a share of revenue, since their play is the basis of the profit that their universities make from ticket and merchandise sales.

This new model essentially functions like a GoFundMe page, in which funds are crowdsourced.

It’s almost as if the players are stock and those who donate are simply investing in their play. It’s a slippery slope. If this were to be adopted by the rest of the college football landscape, it could raise the same problems the sport had during the pre-NIL days when wealthy boosters would pay players to attend certain schools.

Without this model being regulated and contained, college sports would simply become a space in which success is bought and paid for. Whichever school can raise the most money would end up having the best team, killing competition and creating athletic monopolies. Smaller schools with lower budgets and less wealthy alumni would be left in the dust.

I do think that it’s important that college athletes are compensated for the immense financial value they bring to their respective schools, but wealthy donors and community members simply throwing money at them in order to dictate their future just doesn’t sit right with me.