If you don’t know the names George Pyne, IMG Worldwide and the Collegiate Licensing Company, then you need to take the next 10 minutes to read carefully and take some notes. Because if you don’t, you won’t know who to praise or curse at the evolution of College Football in the next eight to 24 months.
It is clearly apparent the NCAA has played its final hand in its ability to properly govern and police both college football and College Basketball. The Ed O’Bannon lawsuit along with the NCAA’s decision to no longer continue its partnership with the popular EA Sports franchise is a clear signal things are changing. Add to the mix all of the conference commissioners who have chastised the NCAA over the past two weeks for its inability to operate outside of its 1950s thinking and you know the sport is primed for some new leadership and fresh ideals.
And with all that being said, let’s now introduce you to the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC).
CLC was founded in 1981 by Bill Battle who signed the legendary Paul Bear Bryant to a promotional licensing contract as his first client. After the signing of Bryant, Battle realized the Alabama Crimson Tide did not have anyone protecting its interest and convinced them to allow him to protect their university. Eight other schools immediately joined and the rest they say is history.
Since 1981, just about every university has signed on and uses CLC for their licensing and branding purposes. Their reward? CLC has helped them collect more than $1 billion in royalties. Every mug you buy with your favorite team logo or every T-Shirt your family wears to show your team spirit has had CLC involved somewhere along the way.
The future power of CLC changed in 2007 as IMG Worldwide purchased the company from Battle. CLC is now under the leadership of Pyne who has the company advising, consulting and controlling just about every revenue aspect of college athletics. Pyne cut his teeth in the world of sports by turning NASCAR into the marketing machine it is today over an 11 year span in the 1990s and 2000s. Pyne also just happened to also be the captain of the football team at Brown University where he was an All-Ivy League player.
And all this is important because?
The NCAA has been a front and a puppet for CLC and the universities for years. To all of us out here in the weeds, the all powerful NCAA was the judge, jury and executioner of all things college athletics. But as the BCS formed and ran its course and the new Plus One Playoff is scheduled to start next season, it is easy to follow the money trail to who has really been running the game for the past 15 years. And it’s clearly not the NCAA.
There is no doubt the NCAA once had its place and respect in the game, but that was our grandfathers’ leather helmets days. To have control and power in today’s game you have to either have money or the unique ability to help someone generate revenue. These are two things CLC has in abundance. And something the NCAA couldn’t find time to even look up to see if it was legal because they can’t decipher their own 2.4 million page rules and regulations manual.
So as you prepare to purchase EA Sports College Football 2015 this time next year in preparation for the season and the new playoff system, remember the game you are about to play and watch will never be the same. The days of amateur athletics is coming to an end when it comes to football and basketball sooner rather than later.
CLC is the the new Czar of College Football and the smiles on the University Presidents is a clear sign they are happy with their new leader and all the extra zeros on their revenue statements.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.