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More Michigan State athletes land NIL deals

The Breslin Center, home of the MSU basketball teams.
Sam Sklar
The Breslin Center, home of the MSU basketball teams.

The NCAA’s 2021 change to allow athletes to sign Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) deals means opportunities to make money off the field. But opportunities came to football and men’s basketball ahead of women’s sports - until this fall.

When the NCAA floodgates opened July 2021, allowing athletes to profit off of name, image and likeness (NIL), there was no telling how college athletics would change forever.

It was an enormous breakthrough, but in the short-term, it fostered a long period of trial and error for both athletes and businesses alike.

United Wholesale Mortgage wasted very little time, striking an early NIL deal with Michigan State’s football and men’s basketball teams. One year later, UWM extended its deal to cover the MSU women’s basketball and volleyball teams.

The deal between UWM and the two women’s teams was announced in early September and contains minimal requirements. The athletes must post on either Twitter or Instagram three times a month promoting the company. They have been provided suggested content from UWM to choose from and monthly payouts can range from $300-700, depending on the amount of followers on each athletes’ social media accounts.

“The NIL deals we made last year with MSU’s men’s basketball and football players was one of the first and largest deals at the time. We wanted to get our feet wet and test it out, and we’re happy we did as the success has been more than expected,” Mat Ishbia, the president and CEO of UWM, said in the statement. “We’re excited to expand this opportunity to all of the athletes on the women’s basketball and volleyball teams and are eager to see the influence they have on educating consumers about career opportunities at UWM and the benefits of working with an independent mortgage broker.”

Ishbia, a former Michigan State men’s basketball player, is one of the university’s largest donors. He has contributed $32 million to MSU Athletics, with $20 million earmarked for the renovations of the MSU football building.

Michigan State men’s basketball freshman Carson Cooper was a late addition to the Spartan recruiting class of 2022 – the first academic year of recruiting influenced by NIL.

He signed an NIL deal with UWM, along with his teammates, and was recently on a webinar with the company. Cooper said it was eye-opening to see how impactful the NIL deals were last year.

“I think it’s really cool having them be able to realize that they can branch out and that they can grow their business through us and through partnering with more sports teams,” Cooper said.

However, the initial NIL deals in 2021 were not free from scrutiny, based upon UWM’s exclusion of women’s sports. But since the deals must be constructed on an individual basis and not on a team or school level, they are not subject to Federal Title IX laws that prohibits sex-based discrimination in public education.

According to UWM Chief Marketing Officer Sarah DeCiantis, the decision to begin with the two men’s sports boiled down to previous relationships. UWM also always had a plan to expand into women’s sports, as long as the first-year trial run yielded positive results, but football was “an obvious place to start.”

“We figured that we're going to start with what we had the easiest access to, because we have so many relationships from a Mel Tucker standpoint and (Tom) Izzo standpoint, we're gonna start there and get access to those student athletes first,” DeCiantis said. “And then it went so well, we wanted to expand it and anything from a women's standpoint, women's student athletes standpoint, was going to be our next step.”

The lone driving factor connecting UWM and MSU did not just lie with Ishbia’s strong connections to the school. According to DeCiantis, UWM, which is headquartered in Pontiac, has a strong emphasis on hiring employees in the metro Detroit area and was intrigued by the reach MSU athletics has across the state.

“Leveraging the NIL deal to help from a recruiting standpoint was a big part of it,” DeCiantis said. “And then also obviously trying to educate on the UWM side to make sure that those who are within the realm of kind of coming up on buying their first house most likely, those first time homebuyers, using these athletes and that messaging to get out there.”

And now with the expansion to athletes from the women’s basketball and volleyball teams, the symbiotic relationship aims to yield even stronger results.

“I think it’s only gonna get bigger from here,” Cooper said. “As people get more acclimated to working with NIL and other athletes, it’s just gonna go up from here.”

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