UNLV aims to have ‘best and most desirable’ NIL program in West

In a letter Wednesday to UNLV season-ticket holders and members of the Rebel Athletic Fund, Athletic Director Erick Harper raised the stakes on the university’s Name, Image and Likeness initiative.

“Our goal is to be the best and most desirable institution relative to NIL in the West,” Harper wrote. “Our student-athletes work year-round to represent this great university and they deserve the opportunity to use their name, image, and likeness to generate income for themselves and their families.”

Harper specifcally encouraged boosters to consider working with the Friends of UNILV, an NIL collective supporting UNLV student-athletes. NIL collectives have become one of the most popular ways for NCAA teams to create pathways for student-athletes to profit off their own image.

“NIL is not going away, it’s here to stay,” said Tom Jingoli, a longtime UNLV booster who’s now involved with the Friends of UNILV. “It’s a vital part of raising money for the success of the basketball program, and quite frankly, all the programs at UNLV.”

In his pitch to boosters, Harper cited the decision by the NCAA in July 2021 “to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness. The adoption of NIL has provided student-athletes a new platform to market themselves and help their families in many ways not previously available.”

Bill Paulos was a longtime member of the Runnin’ Rebels Club, a group formed in 2013 to help raise funds for the UNLV men’s basketball team. Now, Paulos — a UNLV alumnus and booster — is the president of the Friends of UNILV. He describes it as a collective of all the school’s sport-specific fundraising foundations.

There’s essentially two ways UNLV fans can support the group. The Friends of UNILV are a registered 501(c)(3), and any donations to them go directly to charitable work done by UNLV student-athletes, who are paid for their time working and appearing at charity events.

Contributions are tax-deductible. Events include helping at local sports clinics and working at food banks. UNLV basketball players EJ Harkless, Keshon Gilbert and Luis Rodriguez joined the Las Vegas Metro Police Wednesday to visit a local elementary school. The event was facilitated by the Friends of UNILV.

Local businesses can also support UNLV student-athletes by hiring them for events and promotional appearances. Friends of UNILV is supported by Blueprint Sports & Entertainment and will connect interested businesses with Blueprint to draw up official contracts between players and sponsors for commercial endeavors.

Paulos said most of the Friends of UNILV’s contributions have been charitable. They’ve raised more than $400,000 in the past year, with all the money going toward the student-athletes.

He wants to increase that number by finding more business partners and says the city of Las Vegas and its deep connections with UNLV athletics can make this one of the most profitable NIL markets in the country, a financial boost which may make UNLV more competitive and attractive to Power 5 conferences such as the Pac-12 and Big-12.

“We need to compete for the best players in the country,” Paulos said. “We need to let them know and let them realize (student-athletes) can come here, make money while they’re competing at school.”

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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