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Backed By Alumni & Donors, New Collective Aims To Cultivate NIL Opportunities For Penn State Student-Athletes

A new organization led by a group that includes some heavy-hitter Penn State benefactors and alumni aims to help Nittany Lion student-athletes maximize name, image, and likeness opportunities made available last year through changes to NCAA rules and state laws.

Success With Honor publicly launched on Wednesday and will include programs for academic internships, influencer marketing, brand partnerships, camps and clinics, and financial and legal literacy education.

“Through Success With Honor, Penn State student-athletes can access the tools and resources to maximize both educational and NIL opportunities while maintaining a full commitment to excellence in their academic and athletic careers,” a news release from the organization stated. “Contrary to public perception, the vast majority of Penn State student-athletes receive partial or no scholarship money while competing for the Nittany Lions. Recognizing that reality, the goal of Success With Honor is to create opportunities for student-athletes in all 31 sports.”

The collective is separate from the university — state law prohibits schools from arranging third-party payments for athletes — but, according to the news release, has been named the “preferred provider” of NIL services by Penn State.

Success with Honor was formed by five alumni who make up its board of directors: real estate investor and former Penn State trustee Ira Lubert, who serves as chair; PAM Health founder and CEO Anthony Misitano; real estate developer and S&A Homes CEO Bob Poole; Simon Property Group Director and Vice Chairman Rick Sokolov; and Mark Toniatti, retired principal of Towers, Perrin, Forster, and Crosby international management consulting firm, who is acting CEO. Rob Tribeck, chief legal officer at PAM Health and a former Penn State trustee, is general counsel.

The collective has partnered with NIL firm Student Athlete Empowerment, which will manage day-to-day operations under the direction of its CEO, Jason Belzer.

According to the organization, no member of the board will earn income from Success with Honor and all money in excess of expenses will go to Penn State student-athletes. The group projects 85-90% of contributions will go to student-athletes.

For businesses or individuals, Success with Honor will work to arrange NIL activities with athletes. It also offers “subscriptions” ranging from $10 to $500 to support student-athlete NIL opportunities, with each level coming with a variety of benefits.

The organization has a volunteer advisory board of notable former Penn State student-athletes that is expected to grow in the future. It currently includes:

  • Grant Ament – PLL professional lacrosse player (Lacrosse)
  • Kelsey Amy – senior designer Jordan Brand at Nike (Field hockey)
  • Lavar Arrington – FOX Sports Radio (Football)
  • Chris Bevilacqua – Head of Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (Wrestling)
  • Todd Blackledge – ESPN analyst (Football)
  • Calvin Booth – General manager of the Denver Nuggets (Men’s Basketball)
  • Ben Bouma – Network sports producer (Men’s Ice Hockey)
  • Megan Hodge – Professional volleyball player (Women’s Volleyball)
  • Michael Robinson – NFL Network analyst (Football)
  • Lisa Salters – ESPN reporter (Women’s Basketball)
  • Susan Schandel – CFO of NASCAR
  • Linsey Shea – Freelance network media operations (Women’s Lacrosse)
  • David Taylor – Olympic gold medal winner; M2 Training Center and K2 Roots owner (Wrestling)

Success with Honor isn’t the only Penn State-focused NIL collective and likely won’t be the last.

The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County and Happy Valley Adventure Bureau launched HappyValleyTalent.com last year to connect students with businesses, organizations, and fans for NIL opportunities. It currently lists nearly 50 “featured students” from a variety of sports.

Earlier this month, State College native, attorney, and businessman Michael Krentzman debuted Nittany Commonwealth, a new NIL collective that “will launch creative and profitable new opportunities for student-athletes and the community to ensure that Penn State teams remain competitive, expand their national prominence, keep their current athletes out of the transfer portal and enhance the opportunities for current and newly enrolled athletes to maximize their NIL earnings.”

Nittany Commonwealth has partnered with digital entertainment organization ReKTGlobal and its Xchange Factor NIL platform.

Similar to Success with Honor, Nittany Commonwealth offers premium memberships for individual supporters with various benefits like meet-and-greets and merchandise.

It also has a focus on supporting charities, with public service projects tailored to the interests of student-athletes. Nittany Commonwealth has established a partnership with YMCA of Pennsylvania.

“Nittany Commonwealth will give businesses and members the opportunity to forge meaningful relationships with athletes, as well as provide the athletes benefits beyond strong financial performance,” Krentzman said. “Nittany Commonwealth will help athletes build their futures through the relationships formed through the collective, and in so doing, the collective will provide benefits that transcend the length of a collegiate athletic career.”

Though the university cannot set up NIL deals itself, it created a program called STATEment last year to aid student-athletes with resources for things such as branding, financial literacy, media training and relationship-building.

Penn State also took a big step forward in February when it entered a new group licensing deal through Fanatics and OneTeam to sell player jerseys. Players can “opt-in” to the program, which would then allow fans to go buy their specific jerseys and compensate the players themselves.

Nittany Lion football coach James Franklin has been among those pushing for a more aggressive approach to NIL to catch up with other major college athletic programs.

“This is something that we’ve been pushing on and talking about for two years in the football building,” Franklin said in February. “This was brought up two years ago — that we needed to have a plan and be aggressive and be bold with this area. Compared to the programs that you have mentioned, we’re not there yet.”

He added that Penn State’s large alumni base and national brand should give the university a leg up on NIL.

“I do think we have an unbelievable opportunity at Penn State with our alumni base and our brand and our national reputation,” Franklin said. “I think we have tremendous opportunities with the education that our young men get and the foundation that our men and women leave Penn State with and the number of really, really successful alumni that we have. We have to take advantage of that. And we have to be bold and we have to be aggressive and we have to embrace it.”

StateCollege.com’s Mike Poorman and Ben Jones contributed to this story.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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