GW Athletics joins NIL game with new partnership

Media Credit: Photo Illustration by Jordyn Bailer | Assistant Photo Editor

In October 2019, the NCAA Board of Governors unanimously voted to allow student-athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.

An alumni-created collective is helping GW student-athletes connect with businesses and fans to benefit off the popularity of their name, image and likeness, officials announced Friday. 

Friends of George, a collective funded by alumni and fans and not affiliated with the University, was created to foster opportunities for GW student-athletes to benefit from NIL regulations through tiered fan subscriptions or single contributions, according to a release issued Friday which introduced the group.

Student-athletes will be able to benefit through autograph signings, social media promotions and even offering personal coaching and training, and they will keep 85 to 90 percent of contributions that are made to Friends of George, according to their website.

In Oct. 2019, the NCAA Board of Governors unanimously voted to allow student-athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness, reversing their of policy requiring student-athletes to be uncompensated amateurs. This policy went into full effect by July 2021.

The release said that the collective has no role in recruitment, nor does it offer benefits “based on playing time or performance” of participating student-athletes.

“Rather, the concept is for GW fans to collectively resource funds together in a common pool that pays out for legitimate opportunities for student-athletes to perform duties based on the popularity of their name, image and likeness,” the release said.

When asked about the collective in a post-game interview, head men’s basketball Coach Chris Caputo said that it will give GW “an NIL presence” to help them accomplish their competitive goals.

“And the good thing about it is we have an incredible institution for it, an incredible location for it and certainly there are going to be opportunities through that for student engagement as well,” Caputo said.

Those who wish to contribute can purchase a subscription ranging from $10 to $500 per month, or they can pay with a one-time contribution, according to the Friends of George website. Contributors can donate to specific sports, or they can enter into nonexclusive contracts with specific student-athletes, if they choose. 

According to the Friends of George website, GW student-athletes will also be allowed to issue nonfungible tokens, also known as NFTs, for sponsors and brands, and participating student-athletes will receive their rewards on a monthly basis.

The $10 monthly plan gives contributors exclusive interviews and content with student-athletes, access to supporter events and student meet and greet sessions and a raffle for autographed memorabilia. The $25, $50 and $100 monthly plans include all those benefits but add Friends of George apparel, an autographed poster and custom student-athlete video shoutouts, respectively. 

The $250 monthly plan includes all previous benefits but adds exclusive student-athlete NFTs, autographed memorabilia and virtual training with student-athletes. The $500 monthly plan allows contributors to have in-person training with student-athletes, in addition to all previous benefits.

Alumnus Aahil Shermohammed, an NBA agent and former manager of the GW men’s basketball team, serves as CEO of Friends of George. He said the goal of Friends of George is to “foster and facilitate” a space for student-athletes to prosper from NIL while receiving business mentorship, according to the release. 

The creation of the collective comes as colleges and universities across the country adapt to the changing landscape of college sports now that student-athletes are allowed to be compensated. According to the Business of College Sports, more than 70 colleges and universities are connected to an NIL collective which generally creates opportunities for student-athletes to connect with businesses for brand endorsements and promotions or fans based on the popularity of their name, image and likeness.

As NIL collectives were being created across the country, the NCAA announced in a May press release that collectives are allowed under its regulations only if they are considered a booster – a third-party group that helps to promote an athletics program and assists in providing benefits to recruits, student-athletes or their family members.

Loyola Chicago, who is competing in its first season in the Atlantic 10, was the first A-10 program to have an NIL collective when they launched the Rambler Local Exchange in May, which connects their student-athletes with local businesses directly, opening the door for brand sponsorships and promotions. 

Members of the George Mason athletic community followed suit and created the player-directed Patriot Nation Collective in June, which fosters NIL opportunities for members of their men’s basketball team by connecting them with local sponsorship opportunities, allowing fans to connect with student-athletes and selling player-branded merchandise with 50 percent of proceeds going to student-athletes.

Friends of George hope that they will maximize the benefits of NIL while maintaining the values and legacy of the University and its former student-athletes.

CNBC found that NIL most benefits women, who do not usually have a professional option after college, and players who generally reach peak fitness and popularity in college, such as gymnasts. They also found that there is no uniform amount that any player can make under the regulations, especially since their earning potential is based on the popularity of their name, image and likeness.

Players at popular programs in highly viewed conferences such as the Southeast Conference have the greatest chance to benefit. The Athletic found that a five-star football recruit to Tennessee will be paid nearly $8 million by his junior year for appearances that he makes on behalf of businesses as well as the Spyre Sports Group, Tennessee’s NIL collective who he signed the deal with.

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