Former Gonzaga standouts aiming to help current student athletes turn a profit

SPOKANE, Wash. — Just a few years ago the idea of college students athletes making money was against the rules, and in many times looked down upon. However the name, image, and likeness rules have become a major factor during this college season changing the way we view collegiate sports forever.

“Honestly I think it would have been huge…I had a child my freshman year. If this was around when I was still at gonzaga I would have made a killing off of pampers and baby gap,” said Shaniqua Nilles a former Gonzaga Women’s Basketball player.

Nilles understands just what it’s like to be a student athlete at a D1 university, having to balance basketball, the classroom, and on top of all that, raising a child, but six years ago when she was last playing on campus, she had no ability to profit off of her skills as a basketball player. Even for scholarship athletes, the budget can get a little tight…

“But they still struggle to buy groceries, they still struggle to just these everyday needs that I think that if you haven’t gone through it you don’t even think it would be a problem,” added Nilles

However less than a year ago the NCAA loosened up on their name image and likeness rules, now allowing student athletes to make money while on campus…But NIL can still be a bit of the wild wild west and that’s where Nilles and former Gonzaga men’s player Matt Santangelo come in, creating the 3rd party company ‘Friends of Spike.’

“We kind of are for lack of a better term the middle men for that, kind of protect the athletes from these businesses and corporations. We do all the heavy lifting for them. Nobody knows what this space looks like, it’s uncharted territory for us all,”

So while you’ve seen Drew Timme in commercials this season, friends of spike is not affiliated with the university, but would still aim to set up the players and businesses with opportunities that make sense for both sides. “If somebody comes to us and says we want to book this athlete for an appearance for $10 we can, were not even going to waste time with that, that athlete is worth any athlete is worth way more than that,” said Nilles

And those in and around the university have seen the the worth in fighting for NIL changes, as it has become a tool to stay competitive in the ever changing college sports landscape where the money has never been greater. “All athletes deserve to use their own name image and likeness in commercial endorsements and on social media and I am very much in favor profiting as much as they possibly can,” said Mark Few during a hearing on Capitol Hill last June.

“In order to compete with transfer portals and the recruiting process that this is the next step because it could potentially keep athletes here for another year versus going over to play in Europe or g-league,” said Nilles

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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