FARGO — There is no questioning what Sam Griesel has given on the court for the North Dakota State men’s basketball team. Not many players have turned in the hustle plays and all-out-effort of the Bison senior.
This week, he made an off-the-court move that turned some heads. Griesel announced on his personal Twitter account that he’ll donate 20% of any earnings from the NCAA’s new name, image, likeness stipulation to the Landon’s Light Foundation.
In essence, Griesel is turning what for a few years was a controversial topic of players receiving compensation and turning it into a charitable component. He’s been working as an intern for the foundation this summer.
“Everyone involved with the organization and foundation have inspired me,” Griesel said. “They’re all really, really good people and everything I want to be about. I want to help support them.”
Griesel said part of his idea came from University of Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, who posted on social media that he will donate part of his earnings to “underserved people and underserved communities.” Griesel told Bison head coach Dave Richman he wanted to do something similar.
The foundation is in memory of Landon Solberg, the West Fargo 12-year-old who passed away from cancer in 2019. It supports children battling a medical condition and provides financial assistance to organizations benefiting children in similar situations.
The story touched the NDSU basketball team, in part because the Solbergs are neighbors of Richman.
“That does not surprise me with Sam at all,” Richman said, “especially the impact Landon had on him and continues to have on him.”
The name, image, likeness regulation allows student-athletes to benefit financially from the likes of endorsements, camps, autographs, teaching lessons or social media influence. Richman said Griesel approached him on Wednesday with his idea and the tweet he was going to publish.
Richman’s team rule on name, image, likeness is all about communication and disclosure. Players are required to address the coaching staff and fellow players before going public.
“At the end of the day, we are 14 individuals but for a common goal and collectively we need to come together,” Richman said. “We want you to be yourself but we also need to understand we are a family and we need to communicate among family.”
Name, image, likeness is expected to mostly affect players from Power 5 programs, although at just two weeks old it's certainly too early to tell. Griesel, who has been the subject of a public service television commercial on COVID-19 vaccination, said Thursday he has not aligned with any particular company or organization, although the attention his tweet received could boost that.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting all of that but it’s pretty cool to see. Just the fact I guess being a good person goes a long way in this world.”
Griesel was an 18-year-old freshman and had just arrived on the Bison campus when he first met Solberg. Griesel was working a Bison summer basketball camp and Solberg was sort of his assistant.
“He was struggling a bit so he couldn’t do the camp,” Griesel said. “I got to know him pretty well through that, getting to know his story and how he lived his life is everything. It’s how I want to live my life. The Solbergs are a special family so he had a big impact on my life.”
That impact, Richman said, helped Griesel through a freshman season that wasn’t as productive as he hoped.
“Just some maturity things you go through when you’re 18 or 19 and there’s perspective, too,” Richman said. “What’s hard for you? Is it that hard at the end of the day? In Sam’s freshman year, he didn’t do as well as he wanted academically and in Sam’s freshman year we were 2-7 at one point. In the mix of all of this was Landon’s struggle. It was a great perspective for us and we were also a witness to an unbelievable amount of strength and courage.”