Spokane, WA (March 1, 2022) – Today, key community supporters of Gonzaga University student-athletes unveiled “Friends of Spike,” the first significant Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) collective supporting men and women’s basketball and other sports. The initiative is made possible by long-time Gonzaga University (GU) supporters Gee Automotive, Washington Trust Bank, The Wolff Company and Dealers Auto Auction, along with former GU men’s basketball player Matt Santangelo and former GU women’s basketball player Shaniqua Nilles.

On June 30, 2021, the Division 1 Board of Directors approved an interim name, image, and likeness policy. This new policy allows all NCAA D1, D2, and D3 student-athletes to be compensated for their NIL as of July 1, 2021.

“Friends of Spike” is the bedrock to providing a long-term and organized NIL program around GU student-athletes. Supporters of the men and women who represent Gonzaga athletics as student-athletes now will be able to engage directly with athletes for corporate advertising campaigns, youth sports coaching sessions, brand representation, merchandising programs, speaking appearances and more.

Powering “Friends of Spike” will be NIL technology and marketing agency, Blueprint Sports (BPS), led in Spokane by Matt Santangelo and Shaniqua Nilles. “As former student-athletes here in Spokane, we know firsthand how much of an impact we can have on the community and the world,” agreed Santangelo and Nilles. “Whether a student-athlete goes pro or not isn’t the point of participating in collegiate sports. Thanks to this long-overdue interim NIL policy by the NCAA and now by the State of Washington, current and future student-athletes at Gonzaga have the largest stage in history to share their favorite brands with fans and, most important, invest in their own future. We were fortunate to represent Gonzaga on the court and worldwide as we played professional basketball. We’re excited to watch the Zags community grow across the nation and worldwide as these student-athletes continue to excel,” they added.

Gonzaga student-athletes have begun joining the platform to ensure they can participate in the opportunities presented by the “Friends of Spike” collective.

About Friends of Spike Friends of Spike is a collective connecting student-athletes at Gonzaga University with business opportunities under the NCAA’s new Name, Image and Likeness rules. Businesses wishing to engage and work with student-athletes at Gonzaga University are invited to visit

About Blueprint Sports Founded in Las Vegas in 2020, Blueprint Sports (BPS) powers industry-leading name, image, and likeness (NIL) collectives for Alumni, Fans, and Businesses around student-athletes at their favorite university, with a management team possessing more than 50 years of college and professional sports agency and digital brand experience. For more information on Blueprint Sports, visit

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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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