Murray's Mailbag: Did the Nevada Wolf Pack just crack the code to NIL deals?

So much for easing back into things after a week-long vacation. After five days in Colorado, today marked my first day back on the job, and the Nevada Wolf Pack went ahead and hired an athletic director, that being LSU's Stephanie Rempe, who you can read about here. We'll have plenty of coverage on that move in the coming days — here is Brian Polian's reaction — but for now, I'll answer your Monday Mailbag questions. Thanks, as always, for the inquiries.

This is a two-fold thing. There's the "Friends of the Pack," a fan-driven, alumni-led supporter group aimed at raising money for name, image and likeness (NIL) deals. (Its website is here, where you can make micro-monthly donations — or huge donations — toward NIL deals.) And then there's the agreement with Blueprint Sports, which was founded in Las Vegas in 2020 and seeks NIL deals for athletes. Friends of the Pack is a crowdsourcing organization that rakes in money and doles it out to Nevada athletes via NIL deals while Blueprint Sports seeks deals for individual Wolf Pack players. The combination of the two creates a layer between Nevada athletics and the NIL agreements, which should keep it on the right side of the NCAA. There's still a lot of unknown about the future of NIL and the NCAA's impact on those deals. Right now, it's the Wild, Wild West. But hiring a third party like Blueprint Sports gives Nevada plausible deniability if anything arises.

Blueprint Sports gets 20 percent of the NIL deals it brokers for Wolf Pack athletes and will help decide who gets what money from the Friends of the Pack program as well. Blueprint also will help the athletes understand the taxes associated with NIL deals and streamline the process for the players, who are like mini-businesses now. If a player lands an NIL deal, they also can bring it to Blueprint to help with the execution. Nevada appears to be on the frontline of these NIL deals among Mountain West schools, along with Boise State (which has a collective) and UNLV, which also uses Blueprint Sports. Wolf Pack men's basketball has been on the forefront of pushing this thing locally, and while most coaches aren't thrilled with NIL, you either adapt to it or die on the vine.

While Nevada men's basketball's 2021-22 players will financially benefit from these NIL deals, it will really lay the groundwork for the 2022-23 roster and beyond as it sets a framework for what is basically the minimum salary expected to play for the Wolf Pack. Nevada can't share what each player on its roster makes with future recruits, but it can give a minimum number. NIL isn't going anywhere in the near future, and the Wolf Pack is the on the forefront of its conference with Friends of the Pack and Blueprint Sports, so it's a step in the right direction for Nevada athletics. The next AD (Rempe) also will have a large hand in shaping what NIL looks like with the Wolf Pack, as she's played a major role on implementing it at LSU.

In college, I only wrote a couple of articles for The Sagebrush, the student newspaper, because I was given the assignment of "covering" the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk contest by the sports editor and told him that was impossible since I couldn't be at the event. I then got a job at the RGJ as a sophomore and basically answered phone calls from high school coaches and took their box scores and wrote up small blurbs working there instead of working for The Sagebrush. But I'd say my top story in college was a feature on the Nevada men's basketball headed into the 2002-03 season. I called the basketball offices to set up an interview with then-coach Trent Johnson. David Carter, Johnson's assistant, answered the phone. I accidentally said, "I'd like to set up an interview with Coach Green." Coach Carter said, "I didn't know Terrance was coaching the team these days." I forgettable mixed up the last name of the team's coach (Trent Johnson) and star player (Terrance Green). Alas, I got an interview with Coach Johnson, and the main preview I wrote about the 2002-03 season was it being a "fork in the road" moment. Would Nevada take the next step in its progression and reach the postseason or remain mired around .500? Nevada reached the NIT that year and the Sweet 16 the following season. But I'll always remember that Trent-Terrance mix-up.

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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