Kolpack: It's Christmas in July for college athletes and the potential is enormous

So Scheels All Sports and North Dakota State are joined at the hip? What if the starting quarterback is a spokesman for the competition?

North Dakota State's Christian Watson cruises in for a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Sam Houston State on Sunday, May 2, 2021, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas. David Samson / The Forum


There is no sportings goods story that is more compelling than Scheels All Sports. At least in these parts, and beyond.

When Friedrich A. Scheele took all $300 he earned from his first harvest on three acres of land near Sabin, Minn., and invested it into his own hardware and merchandise store, just surviving was probably the goal.

That was 1902. Eventually, somebody took the final "e" out of the last name and his son, Frederick Scheel, took over the business. That was 1919. The family tree is a fascinating narrative of taking risks, working hard and seeing growth.

Today, the Scheels brand is the world’s largest all sports store and the name is synonymous with yellow shirts and green cash. Ask North Dakota State athletics; it wisely has partnered with Scheels over the years and the results have benefited both.


But starting July 1, in a strange twist, Scheels may find some competition with the same school it has invested in over the years. Specifically, Bison athletes.

They will have free reign to negotiate their own sponsorship deals thanks to the NCAA’s name, image, likeness legislation that currently is more messed up than a landfill. It could be a fascinating scenario.

One stipulation, we think, is athletes won’t be able to negotiate deals with companies that are contracted to their school. Name the highest profile football player on the Bison roster?

Let’s go with wide receiver Christian Watson.

There will be nothing stopping Watson from being the spokesman for Paramount Sports, the sporting goods store in south Fargo. Seems to me Watson talking about Paramount would have more punch than a particular game “being brought to you by” so and so. It doesn't have to be cash. If anybody sees Christian peddling around campus in a Norco Revolver carbon fiber bike, you'll know why.

So Bud Light is the official beer of the Bison? That combination seems lucrative for both parties.

But I think offensive lineman Cordell Volson would be ideal for Budweiser. A tough, small-town kid from Balfour, N.D., who seemingly doesn’t need expensive IPAs, or lite beer, being that he’s older than 21 years old. Doesn't matter if he drinks or not, it's cash. I can't stand tequila but if somebody wants to pay me to promote it, heck yeah.

Oh, the possibilities are crazy. What would stop some company from contracting with Cam Miller, Quincy Patterson or Cole Payton? They are presumably the top three quarterbacks heading into fall practice. How about somebody negotiates a promotional deal with the starting QB for exclusivity during the week.


Or say some other school in the Missouri Valley Football Conference that doesn’t have the TV competition that NDSU has? The heck with paying the school, I’ll just pay the quarterback.

The name, image, likeness is mostly getting the attention with Power 5 schools, where athletes play in front of bigger crowds and huge, nationally-televised audiences. A popular, starting quarterback at Alabama has got to be worth some big bucks. That’s going to be the recruiting pitch and the rich will get richer.

And don't think it can't be a part of the FCS recruiting game. Missouri Valley football schools in bigger cities like Fargo, Springfield, Mo., and Normal, Ill., can presumably tout more business opportunities for endorsements. I'm not sure that will be reality, but I'm not convinced it won't.

Anybody who has seen ESPN’s “30 for 30” on the SMU football scandal of the 1980s and the scene where SMU running back Eric Dickerson got into his shiny, new gold Trans Am right before signing day can now take note: that was nothing compared to the future of college athletics and that future is now.

The SMU recruits called the assistant coaches who were doling out payments “Santa Claus.” While assistants these days can’t negotiate on behalf of athletes, let’s just say they can create a path of some sort.

Say goodbye to amateurism in college athletics. It’s Christmas in July for college athletes.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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