Andre Agassi helping fund new NIL program for UNLV athletes

The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education is helping fund a third-party name, image and likeness program to financially benefit UNLV athletes.

Bill Paulos, a longtime Las Vegas business executive and UNLV men’s basketball booster, chairs the program called “Friends of UNILV.”

Blueprint Sports, founded in 2020 in Las Vegas with Agassi’s financial backing, oversees the NIL program. Agassi’s contribution was not disclosed.

“The ability for Blueprint to work alongside Bill Paulos and the rest of the leadership for Friends of UNILV will bring equity and parity to student-athletes of all sports at UNLV,” the tennis Hall of Famer and Las Vegas native said in a statement. “These student-athletes have worked tirelessly throughout their career to become a member of a Division I team, and I am excited to be a part of helping them learn about business and life with their personal brands.”

Paulos said more than $150,000 has been raised since the program began in October, with more than $80,000 having been distributed to athletes through deals with businesses and nonprofit organizations. A new website will go online next week that will help connect athletes with business opportunities.

Nevada law doesn’t allow programs such as “Friends of UNILV” to coordinate with UNLV to establish NIL deals, though a state committee has been established to study the issue. Each state has its own set of laws regarding NIL, which has become a key recruiting tool in college sports.

“We’re working with Blueprint to make sure that we’re able to raise the funds necessary to show that UNLV is serious about NIL,” Paulos said. “Whether we like it or not, one of the first questions a recruit asks is not how the Mendenhall Center is anymore, it’s now, ‘OK, how much did (basketball star Bryce) Hamilton make last year?’”

Blueprint’s role is to make sure all the procedures are followed. If an athlete agrees to a deal, such as an appearance at a charity event, that money is placed into escrow until the person fulfills the obligation.

Athletes also have 20 percent deducted for federal income taxes, and they are educated on financial responsibilities.

“Every contract we do, they make sure passes the smell test,” Paulos said.

Blueprint is moving quickly into the NIL game on a national scale. The company has deals with Arizona, Gonzaga, UNR and Montana State as well as Tennessee’s baseball program.

Blueprint chairman Cisco Aguilar said four more agreements are in the process of being finalized, and another nine schools are expected to sign with the company.

“(Athletes) put their heart and soul into these sports,” Aguilar said. “They need to be compensated for some level of engagement because it’s expensive to train. The quality of the food that is critical to their success costs money, and if we can help alleviate some of these stresses, they’re going to be better performers on the court or on the field.”

Aguilar said Agassi wants to empower college athletes by providing “proper support (so) they would be able to accomplish the dream that they’re setting out to do.”

Nate Brown

General Manager

Nate Brown is the General Manager of Zags Collective, leading the charge to help amplify the opportunities for the Gonzaga student-athletes through NIL partnerships with local charities, fans and businesses. With over a decade of experience in the professional sports industry and as a former business owner in Spokane, Nate is a seasoned professional who knows what it takes to succeed. Most recently, he served as the National Sales Director for a prominent west-coast real estate company, where he was responsible for driving growth and retention. With a deep understanding of sales and marketing, Nate brings a wealth of knowledge to the table and is always seeking innovative ways to drive revenue and create partnerships.With a passion for ensuring the success of student-athletes both on and off the field, Nate is dedicated to providing the necessary resources to keep Gonzaga competitive on the national stage. He understands the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with the community and local businesses, and works to maximize opportunities for Gonzaga’s student-athletes. As the son of two Gonzaga alumni, including a father who was a baseball pitcher and also a coach for the school, Nate has a great connection to the university and a passion for ensuring its continued success. Outside of work, Nate enjoys spending time with family, including his wife Jessica and their 16-year-old daughter Brooklynn and 12-year-old son Marcus. When not working or spending time with family, you can find Nate at any one of the amazing golf courses in Spokane, honing his swing!

Mike Smith

General Manager

Mike Smith joined Micconope 1851 in March 2023 and is excited to be the General Manager and looks forward to working with Blueprint Sports increase NIL revenue generation for Florida State University student-athletes. Smith comes to Micconope 1851 from Catawba College where he held the title as the Senior Director of Athletics, Development. Prior to working in Athletics at Catawba College, Mike served as the Associate Athletics Director for External Relations at Charleston Southern University. Smith has an impressive background in the collegiate athletics industry, having held senior level development and corporate sponsorship sales roles at The University of Southern Mississippi, Limestone University, the Sun Belt Conference, Florida Atlantic University, and with multimedia rights-holders Tele South Communications at the University of Mississippi, Learfield Sports at UNC Chapel Hill, and with International Sports Properties at Georgia Tech. Smith is a graduate of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and holds a master’s degree in Business Management from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In his new role here at Micconppe 1851, Smith will be responsible for raising major gifts for NIL deals as well as securing NIL corporate sponsorships for Florida State University student-athletes. Mike looks forward to helping ensure the FSU student-athletes have the resources and leadership opportunities to remain competitive nationally and positioned for success well beyond graduation. Mike is married to Katy Smith; the couple looks forward to relocating to Tallahassee, Florida, and becoming a part of the Micconope 1851 and Seminole family!

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