STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (WHTM) — Two heads are better than one, at least that’s what Penn State is hoping as Lions Legacy Club and Success with Honor merge into one NIL collective: Happy Valley United.
The new NIL collective will support all 31 sports, uniting the efforts of both collectives to “create a clear direction for all Nittany Nation stakeholders to directly support the NIL efforts of the world-class student-athletes attending Penn State,” Penn State said in a release.
“Both groups have been great supporters of our NIL efforts to date, but this merger was an important step in our ever-changing collegiate athletics landscape,” said Penn State Athletic Director Pat Kraft. “It was imperative for these two powerful collectives to join forces to provide a large breadth of NIL opportunities for student-athletes in all 31 of our sports programs to continue to push us forward.”
Changes by the NCAA in 2021 to the Name Image and Likeness (NIL) rules have allowed college athletes to make money while still in college by participating in endorsement deals, charity events, and other business opportunities.
NIL Collectives are independent of the school, but fund opportunities and broker relationships with businesses on behalf of the school’s student-athletes. These groups are often formed by prominent alumni and supporters
Happy Valley United will be run as a business with a board including Ira Lubert, Anthony Misitano, Bob Poole, Larry Cusack, Mark Toniatti, B.J. Werzyn and Matt DeSoto.
Penn State says Happy Valley United “is strategically structured and will immediately establish advisory boards for football, basketball, and Olympic sports to provide fundraising support, event planning, strategic guidance, and financial commitment.”
Lions Legacy Club describes itself as “a fan-driven and alumni-led Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) program for Penn State University football student-athletes, alumni, and fans.” Success With Honor was designed to benefit athletes in all 31 Division I sports at Penn State.
This news comes after both collectives posted a photo on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon saying “United: made into or caused to act as a single entity. Formed or produced by the uniting of things or persons. agreed; in harmony.” In the hours to follow, Penn State teams each individually posted the same graphic.
On April 13, Lions Legacy Club announced a “landmark NIL corporate and philanthropic partnership” with Mechanicsburg-based West Short Home and MITER Brands. The deal included a seven-figure, multi-year commitment to Penn State Football players.
It was really the first of its kind deal for Penn State’s NIL collectives, and began opening the door to more opportunities in the months to follow.
In May, over a dozen businesses were invited to West Shore Country Club to learn how they can benefit from partnering with Penn State football players.
York-based real estate developer Inch & Co has also partnered with Penn State athletes, including former Central York quarterback Beau Pribula, on different initiatives.
The most competitive college football programs boast strong NIL relationships with businesses and donors, and it’s driving high school recruits to those schools.
Football Head Coach James Franklin often speaks on the need for Penn State Football to remain competitive in this college football landscape.
In an exclusive one-on-one interview with abc27 Sports Director Allie Berube, Franklin explored the growth of NIL at Penn State since 2021.
“I think it’s changed dramatically, obviously, over the last year, specifically with [Athletic Director] Pat Kraft,” Franklin said. “It’s basically to make sure that all 31 sports have the ability to compete at the very, very highest level. Not only from a Penn State perspective, but with what we’re having to compete with on a national level and really even within our conference.”
When Lions Legacy Club was created by a group of football lettermen, it was only designed to work with the football program. Now that work will expand to all 31 teams.
“Obviously, from my perspective, it’s football,” Franklin said of his NIL focus. “But I still make the argument that healthy football is really good for the entire athletic department, which is really good for the entire university and the state.”
Franklin goes on to reference the impact Penn State football can have on the state economy.
According to research conducted by the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau, in 2022, spending by consumers during home football games is estimated to yield $87 million in economic impact within the Centre County economy. The Bureau says this supports about 930 jobs with $26.3 million in employee compensation, and the overall economic impact of this spending within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is $97 million.
Penn State Football begins its season at home against West Virginia on Saturday, September 2 inside Beaver Stadium.