Penguins’ Season Will Begin with a Party and Robust NIL Fund

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Penguins’ 2023 football season will kick off Youngstown-style on Aug. 19, when Rock the Lot takes place outside Stambaugh Stadium.

Like every tailgate party in the stadium lot, it will include food and games and the inimitable game day atmosphere. But instead of a game, the highlight will be an 8 p.m. performance by Youngstown’s The Vindys – one of northeastern Ohio’s top rock bands.

The event starts at 3 p.m. in the tailgate lot. An opening act band will perform at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 per person, or $50 for a tailgate pass, and proceeds go to the football program to help with operating expenses. To purchase tickets in advance, go to and click the Tickets & Gameday tab. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate.

Rock the Lot will get the Penguin fanbase in a football frame of mind. But the group that has been raising money for the team’s Name, Image and Likeness payments is already in midseason form.

The Penguin Collective has raised approximately $200,000 for the football NIL fund, according to Rocco Nolfi, special assistant to the athletics director at the university.

The NCAA approved NIL funding for players two years ago and it has quickly become a major factor in athletes’ collegiate decision-making process.

In keeping with NCAA rules, the university does not raise money for the fund or distribute it to the players. Nolfi’s role is to direct donors to the Penguin Collective.

The NIL program provides players with payments in exchange for the use of their name, image or likeness in marketing efforts by private companies. The goal is to help players monetize their endorsements and build their brands, according to the collective’s website.

The Penguins already have a strong lead over their conference opponents in the NIL race. They have also raised $311,500 for the basketball team fund, Nolfi says.

The basketball fund leads all schools in the Horizon Conference, in which YSU competes, he says.

Tim Petrey, managing partner of HD Davis CPAs of Liberty, is the director of the Penguin Collective.

The basketball fund jumped out to a huge lead shortly after the team’s season ended with a tournament run. It was paced by a $200,000 donation by the Mahoning Valley Servpro franchise, owned by Jim Dobson and his family. Servpro also donated $25,000 to the football NIL fund, Nolfi says.

The collective has been aggressive in building its funds and the local business community has responded. “Our coaches have also done a great job in educating the community [about the importance of the fund],” he says.

The efforts are paying off.

‘The players can directly see the efforts we’ve made and it is attractive to them,” Nolfi says. “They want to come to YSU.”

Pictured at top: The Vindys