Friday morning, OSU softball coach Kenny Gajewski discussed something never before seen in the college softball world.
Not even in Norman.
The Cowgirl softball team is partnering with Seth Wadley Ford and Chevy of Perry, Pokes with a Purpose and Learfield for a team-wide NIL deal. There are numerous parts involved in the collective working for a single purpose: benefitting student athletes. “I would say it's cutting edge,” Gajewski said. “I've seen some little things out there. But I haven't seen anything to my knowledge up to this point that has this this much juice. This is a monster day for not only our program, OSU softball, but female athletes, female sports.” The collective has raised $250,000 to directly support OSU softball student athletes. According to Jared Cunningham, co-owner of Seth Wadley Ford and Chevy of Perry, it places OSU softball second in total university NIL sponsorships behind Cowboy football. Cunningham and Gajewski have known each other for almost 20 years. Gajewski taught Cunningham’s two oldest sons how to pitch. Cunningham’s reason for committing to OSU goes beyond his relationship with Gajewski. He grew up with talented female athletes in his home and loves women’s athletics. The proximity of Perry to Stillwater also makes the partnership a good fit. Gajewski wants the student athletes who opt into the collective to earn the rewards by becoming involved in the community, a key mission of the NIL collective.
“We believe that money is important, but there also needs to be a committed investment in the community,” Cunningham said. “Can you really ascribe a dollar amount for a little girl this big who dreams of being an OSU softball player getting to rub elbows with an OSU softball player, maybe even their hero, at their local park?”
One of the first steps in community involvement will be when Gajewski and members of the OSU softball team attend the Perry home softball game on Monday. The team will also attend a Morrison home game against Ripley toward the end of September. Not to be overlooked is the fact the collective opportunity extends to OSU players who exhausted their year of eligibility last season. The deal is structured like this because, when Cunningham shared his plans for the collective with the team in February, he told everyone they would see the benefits. Because the project isn’t getting underway until now, Cunningham said part of the “Cowboy way” is keeping his word and he owed it to the graduated players to include them in the opportunity. “I just think that really shows what kind of people they are, and just really cool that they're kind of including us still,” former OSU third baseman Sydney Pennington said.
OSU continues to follow the name, image and likeness trend.