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.