By embracing NIL, not shying away from it, Arizona football is prepared for the future of college sports

In an ideal world, Kevin Sumlin would have been a success at Arizona. The coach would have seen Tucson as a place where he could resuscitate his career and would have put in the work to make it happen.

Sure, he may have ultimately left for a bigger job, but the program would have been in a good place when he chose to do so.

That’s not what happened. Not at all.

The Sumlin era was a disaster, so much so that the football program was practically forced to make a change, even during a pandemic that limited the financial resources.

Enter Jedd Fisch.

More than a year later Arizona has added just one win to its total, but it’s tough to argue the program isn’t in a significantly better place than it was.

A top-25 recruiting class, impact transfers and a reputation that far outpaces what you would expect from a school that has made residence at the bottom of the conference.

The coach has, with help from the school, gotten ahead of the game when it comes to Name, Image and Likeness. He has led an effort to take advantage of uncertainty and turmoil at other schools. He has Arizona on an upward trajectory that, in just a few short years, could have the Wildcats competing for a divisional crown.

It’s a far cry from Fisch’s in-state rival.

Up in Tempe, Herm Edwards’ program is in turmoil. The Sun Devils are dealing with the cloud of an investigation that reportedly has plenty of hard evidence behind it. That would be bad enough, but for whatever reason ASU seemed to have made it a point to not get involved in the NIL game. They were so against it, actually, that their refusal to play by the new rules was almost a source of pride.

Whereas Arizona has enjoyed an influx of talent, ASU has dealt with an exodus. In many cases, for the latter it has been said NIL is the issue, with players wanting to get paid and feeling like it can’t or won’t happen in Tempe.


Coming off a one-win season, it’s clear Arizona is doing something right.

It’s not just NIL, of course. The coaching staff has done a masterful job of creating—and selling—a future. Many of the players had offers from higher-profile schools, all of whom have a more recent history of winning (mathematically they almost have to). The allure of early playing time and a big role helps, yes, but there is more to it.

By all accounts the coaches have fostered the kind of atmosphere players want to be a part of, and one parents are glad to send their kids to.

But it would be impossible not to connect NIL to their offseason success, which is truly a credit to the staff and university. The narrative from many in Tempe is such that the only schools who can succeed in this new world are the elite programs.

Well, either they are calling Arizona elite or the assumption is flat out wrong. Arizona made the calculation that they could, if not thrive, at least survive so long as they understood NIL, got out in front of it and made it part of the overall brand.

Would that have happened with a different coach? We can’t know for sure, but the fact is Fisch—for all the questions he arrived with—has shown to truly get it. He understands the amount of work it takes to succeed in Tucson, has a feel for how to recruit in 2022 and is smart and capable enough to adapt in an ever-changing landscape. It is often said that timing is everything, and that is certainly the case here. The rebuild was never going to be quick and there is still work to be done, along with much to prove, but if nothing else Fisch, his staff and the university are doing everything right.

It’s a nice change, and it came not a moment too soon.

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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