The Big Red Collaborative launches at key moment for NIL at Nebraska

Oct 25, 2022 | News

Published on 9/15/22 – Jeremy Crabtree of On3 (Photo Cred: HuskerOnline) –  Nebraska football faces an uncertain future after the Cornhuskers fired Scott Frost. But a newly launched collective – dubbed The Big Red Collaborative – hopes to bring some certainty to Nebraska student-athletes on the NIL front.


The collective’s launch comes at a critical juncture for the Huskers. The football program will soon have a new leader and a new direction. Plus, the Huskers have one of the most successful volleyball programs in the country that receives massive support from fans. So, the timing for something secure on the NIL front couldn’t come at a better time.


The collective’s founders include Kris Brown, a 12-year NFL kicker and Nebraska football great. Brown is also a successful franchisee of Dunkin’ with locations in Nebraska and Missouri. Another key collective leader is Matt Hickey, a partner at Capital Wealth Advisors, who has an extensive background in managing investments and finances for active and retired professional athletes. Bill Gerber, the retired Chief Financial Officer of TD Ameritrade, is also heavily involved. Additionally, Joe Petsick, another entrepreneur with plenty of success in the business world, is on The Big Red Collaborative team as an advisor.


“The reality, whether any of us like it or not, is that NIL at the end of the day is really to recruit and retain when you want to look at it from a coach’s or an athletic department’s point of view,” Petsick told On3. “Knowing you’re doing a coaching change is probably when your roster and recruits become most vulnerable. Being in a position to have a tool – and in this case a new tool – I think a coach can understand what’s in place to deliver significant impact and that certainly is helpful.”


New approach to NIL at Nebraska

That tool is a collective that is poised to support hundreds of Husker student-athletes across all sports through a model that benefits maximum benefits for all stakeholders.


The Big Red Collaborative says it differentiates itself by establishing a 501(c)(3) public charity arm that is geared to provide benefits to non-profit organizations. Student-athletes will leverage their NIL to promote and benefit these charities, bringing increased visibility and participation that would not have existed otherwise.


Brown told On3 that The Big Red Collaborative will launch partnerships with three charities that are admired by the Husker community.


One is TeamMates Mentoring, which was founded in 1991 by Nebraska coaching legend Tom Osborne and his wife Nancy. Another is the Team Jack Foundation, which is on a mission to fight pediatric brain cancer. In 2013, pediatric brain cancer patient Jack Hoffman, who was then 7 years old, entered the Nebraska spring game during the fourth quarter and ran for a 69-yard touchdown. Video of the play received national and international attention. The third charity is the Nebraska Greats Foundation, which provides medical and financial assistance to in-need former athletes from Nebraska’s 16 four-year colleges and universities.


The Big Red Collaborative will also encourage student-athlete education in the areas of financial literacy, wealth planning and entrepreneurship.


“Our goal is to invest in the athletes for the next 40 years,” Brown told On3. “Not just the next four years. That was our No. 1 driver from a student-athlete standpoint.


“No. 2 is that we really truly believe that the Nebraska way asks – what type of impact are you making? We really wanted to identify charitable organizations that are near and dear to Nebraskan’s hearts and have some connections to the athletic department. This was really important to us. It’s important that while the athletes are playing that they really understand the servant mentality of how they can take their platform and see what type of impact they can make for these charitable organizations.”


Big Red Collaborative enters crowded collective market

The Big Red Collaborative isn’t the first Nebraska collective aimed at supporting Husker athletes. After today’s launch, there are four known collectives – The Big Red Collaborative, Big Red Fan ClubLincoln NIL Club and Athlete Branding & Marketing’s collective arm known as N100.


The Big Red Fan Club and Lincoln NIL Club are player-led groups that have been met with lukewarm support. Athlete Branding & Marketing has generated the most attention in the Nebraska market with more than $5 million raised and headliner deals like Decoldest Crawford’s cool commercial with a Nebraska AC company.


Yet, The Big Red Collaborative believes its education and charitable approach can be a differentiator.


Plus, it also doesn’t hurt that The Big Red Collaborative reached an agreement in principle to acquire Athlete Impact Management, led by former Cabela’s Chief Financial Officer Ralph Castner. AIM was initially formed to support the Nebraska men’s basketball team. Castner has agreed to join Big Red Collaborative’s board to serve as the liaison to basketball once the acquisition is completed.


“There is already an agency model here, so there was no need to create a collaborative with the same model,” Petsick told On3. “One of the components of us taking the approach with the non-profit and 501(c)(3) was that it might appeal to a whole different group of donors. A charitable contribution is something that might make them want to get even more involved than they would have otherwise.


“But the net of it all is that we chose the name – The Big Red Collaborative – intentionally. We understand that there are other things going on. We have to work with everyone. That’s our intention. How that all plays out is new to everybody. So, we expect to be complimentary and work alongside (ABM) and anyone else.”


Nebraska has ingredients for major NIL success

By plan, The Big Red Collaborative has yet to sign any student-athletes to NIL deals. That will come in due time, organizers say. The collective has partnered with Opendorse – which is run by former Huskers Blake Lawrence and Adi Kunalic – to streamline communication, compensation and compliance.


The group will eventually announce an advisory board featuring several prominent former Husker stars across a number of different sports. The collective also did not want to share how much has been raised initially. Even so, they are confident that The Big Red Collaborative has all the right components to be wildly successful.



“Nebraska has all the tools to be a premier program for student-athlete NIL success,” Brown said. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have the greatest fans in college sports and the nation’s leading NIL technology company, right here in our backyard – and we are thrilled to embrace both to maximize success for Nebraska student-athletes.”


While the Nebraska athletic department didn’t go as far as other schools and call this group its official collective. It speaks volumes that Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts was quoted in The Big Red Collaborative’s initial press release.


“I am a strong believer that Nebraska is extremely well-positioned for success in this new era of college athletics,” Alberts said in the release. “It’s exciting to see another group of successful individuals and organizations in our state band together to support Husker athletes.”


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