NCAA’s new NIL rule could open door for recruiting success at UNLV

At a high-end men’s clothing store at Aria this month, three UNLV football players were led to a secret VIP lounge to start the process of being fitted for new suits. The value of the suits—which Noah Bean, Tre Caine and Farrell Hester II plan to wear for their college graduation—was about $1,800 apiece, though the players wouldn’t have to pay a dime. Before a rule change that took effect over the summer, such a transaction—if it came to light—would land a player and a school in trouble with the NCAA, which governs college sports. Instead, because of the new personal “name, image and likeness” guidelines, college athletes all over the country have taken advantage of various marketing opportunities. “The rule change, it’s a tad late, but it’s exciting,” Caine said. “I’m so excited for us, and for future generations, that this is happening.” The deal was made possible with the help of Blueprint Sports, a Las Vegas sports marketing company founded largely to take advantage of the NCAA’s policy change. Blueprint serves as a digital marketplace for opportunities for athletes.

More than a dozen soon-to-graduate UNLV football players are expected to be a part of the partnership with Maceeo, the designer shirt label. For Caine, it was his first endorsement deal. “More than 90% of athletes at the collegiate level aren’t going to have professional agents or marketing reps or lawyers to help find opportunities,” said Blueprint partner Cisco Aguilar, an attorney and former general counsel for tennis icons Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf. Aguilar envisions the company growing its footprint quickly in Las Vegas, a city he said is tailor-made for marketing opportunities for athletes. “We help players find opportunities, but it’s also a resource for the buyer, or the business, to find the right athlete,” Aguilar said. “There is a lot of opportunity here. Las Vegas over the past five years has gone from a community with no pro sports teams to a sports town. That will also drive opportunity.” As part of their deal for the suits, the football players have to take a financial literacy course geared toward graduating college students. The course is through Montage Financial Group, whose managing director, Michael Chudd, is a former UNLV football player and a booster of Rebel sports.

Chudd has been a consistent donor to the football program over the years, but he said the NIL rule opened up more ways for boosters to support college athletes. “Because of the rule, people like me are now able to support players directly and not just donate to the university,” Chudd said. “I can now do both if I want. I’ve always felt that universities have a certain agenda—they’re usually trying to fill missing budget gaps. In many cases, the things that coaches need might not directly affect players.”

Since the team hasn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2013, Chudd and other boosters and fans want to see a more coveted brand of athlete come to Las Vegas. Chudd thinks the NIL rule will help. “I think we have the ability at UNLV to be a top 50 team,” Chudd said. “That’s based partly on the facilities we have, but I think we can come up with a cooler package for a recruit than, say, a different school in the Mountain West. Maybe that ends up being the difference of why a kid comes here.”

For now, according to a UNLV spokesman, most of the sponsorship deals are for men’s basketball and football players, though several of the 75 or so deals on the books do involve female athletes. Blueprint has also worked with the Findlay Auto Group, which has a deal with the UNLV men’s basketball team to provide a $500 auto stipend for each player on the team. Robby Findlay, operations director for the auto group, said players can spend the money on a car payment, or on other transportation costs.

In exchange, players are asked to take the Montage Financial Group course. They also might be asked to come to a dealership for an appearance or autograph signing. “Once the rule went into effect, we knew we wanted to do something to help out the basketball program,” Findlay said. “With insurance and some of the other liabilities, it just wasn’t practical to offer players actual vehicles, but we thought the car allowance was a good idea. We get a little notoriety, and the student-athletes are helped out a little, which we think they deserved this whole time.”

By rule, the university isn’t allowed to be part of an athlete’s dealings with a potential sponsor. It simply keeps track of transactions. Last month, Alabama quarterback Bryce Young announced a deal with a steakhouse in Tuscaloosa, promising to bring his offensive linemen to the restaurant for meals. Female athletes around the country have also been inking deals. At Fresno State, twins Hanna and Haley Cavinder, who both play for the women’s basketball team, were recently featured on an episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to highlight their various sponsorship agreements. Caine said he had no doubt that marketing opportunities in Las Vegas would help lure future competitive recruits.

“It gives the athletes hope that there’s more out there,” Bean said. “This gave a lot of people opportunities to get their bills paid. It’s a blessing.” As Aguilar looked on as the players moved about the store, he said he believes Blueprint—and similar outfits like it—have lots of room to grow. “Student-athletes commit so much of their life to performing on the field,” Aguilar said. “It’s our job to make this process as easy as possible for supporters, businesses and athletes. The easier that process is for supporters, more opportunities will become available, and that will help UNLV recruit.”

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!

Contact Us Now!