Fans can help pay Wildcats athletes through UA's 5980 Fund, new nonprofit

University of Arizona sports fans now have two more ways to help compensate Wildcat athletes.

The school’s athletic department, having already committed to paying all its eligible athletes an extra $5,980 a year in academic-related bonuses starting this fall, announced Thursday it has established the 5980 Fund to help. The UA’s Wildcat Club developmental arm is seeking donations for the fund.

Meanwhile, the nonprofit BPS Foundation also announced Thursday that fans can give tax-deductible donations that will help UA athletes receive further name, image and likeness opportunities with charities through the Friends of Wilbur and Wilma NIL collective.

UA’s academic-related bonus payments of $5,980, which is the most allowed under a July 2021 Supreme Court ruling, are not tied to any academic achievements other than staying eligible and progressing toward a degree.

All power-conference programs are expected to pay the maximum academic bonuses on top of scholarships and cost-of-attendance stipends in order to remain competitive. Mississippi was the first school to begin payments after the June 2021 ruling, according to Sports Illustrated, while similar vehicles such as Oklahoma State’s POSSE Star Fund have been established to cover the cost of the payments.

While announcing UA’s commitment to the academic bonuses during an Arizona Board of Regents meeting in April, athletic director Dave Heeke said a plan was being devised to pay for a total of about $3 million, since UA has nearly 500 student-athletes.

That’s about 3% of UA’s annual budget, but Heeke told the Star in April that paying the bonuses was “the right thing to do.” Heeke also noted the “competitive and recruiting standpoint” involved: Not paying the bonuses, as with full the cost-of-attendance stipends, could put UA coaches at a disadvantage in recruiting.

For similar reasons, the bonuses aren’t likely to be tied to a particular grade-point average but instead paid fully toward those who are remaining eligible and working toward a degree — so that a recruit can’t be offered a more generous potential bonus somewhere else.

“I think it will be centered more around progressing,” Heeke said in April. Things such as “you’re meeting all the benchmarks for the NCAA, you’re getting your APR points, you’re making progress toward a degree, remaining eligible and according to NCAA standards, you’re in good standing, you’re not in violation of NCAA rules, team rules, all of those kinds of things. It gets kind of hard to say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be a 3.0 or 4.0 student to get this.’”

The $5,980 academic bonus is yet another part of a dramatically new landscape for college athletes on top of changes involving the transfer portal and name, image and likeness activity.

Arizona established an in-house NIL platform called Arizona Edge that provides education about NIL and a marketplace portal to find opportunities, while two external outfits have also sprung up: Friends of Wilbur and Wilma and the Arizona Assist club.

Friends of Wilbur and Wilma has been pooling booster funds to give to UA athletes of all sports who make personal appearances, the vast majority of them for charities. It also assisting businesses who want to hire the athletes.

Arizona Assist, meanwhile, is focused solely on men’s basketball, distributing money for players equally via membership dues while marketing merchandise that benefits the player whose name is on it.

Having already reported arranging more than 350 transactions for UA football players, Friends of Wilbur and Wilma announced along with the BPS Foundation a partnership that is intended to expand opportunities for UA athletes with charitable organizations. The BPS Foundation said it has qualified for Section 501© (3) status, one of the first NIL organizations to have received a federal tax exemption.

“This allows us to empower University of Arizona student-athletes to channel their energy for a common goal: to make the community where they live and play a better place,” BPS Foundation chair Alex De Castroverde said in a statement. “BPS Foundation will create numerous new opportunities for these student-athletes to give back in Tucson, within the Friends of Wilbur and Wilma collective managed by Blueprint Sports.”

The BPS Foundation said tax-deductible donations can be given on a one-time or monthly basis at The Wildcat Club explains its mission at

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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