Louisville's 502 Circle NIL collective launches match campaign supporting Pat Kelsey

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos04/02/24

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Louisville is ensuring new basketball head coach Pat Kelsey has the NIL funds necessary to compete in the ACC and get the Cardinals back in the national spotlight.

The Louisville-driven NIL collective 502 Circle launched a campaign Monday, spearheaded by a $1 million matching donation from local businessman Rick Kueber of Glow Brands. Kueber and his brother, David, own Glow Brands which consists of Planet Fitness, Sun Tan City and Buff City Soap. They committed $3 million toward Louisville’s campus training facility for men’s and women’s basketball and women’s lacrosse in 2018.

The Cardinals won just 12 games in the past two seasons, yet Louisville is only a decade removed from its last national championship. With the majority of top NIL collectives in college basketball operating with a $1 to $4 million payroll, Kelsey will need his NIL program in order to compete.

As of Tuesday afternoon, fans have donated $382,000 in just over 24 hours. 502 Circle president Dan Furman told On3 that $250,000 was raised on Monday alone.

“Unbelievable, Rick’s a special dude,” Louisville head coach Pat Kelsey said Monday night on an X space. “You talk about Cardinal nation, you talk about the passion of this fanbase. Rick is a guy who obviously loves this program so much. So many people not only say they love Louisville basketball, but they show it as well in. Every donation and every contribution is so appreciated by me and everybody in our administration. The generous contribution — Rick believes in this place so much. He believes in what we’re doing and the undertaking, the vision we have.”

NIL will be crucial for Pat Kelsey to reconstruct Louisville

The match campaign was launched just days after the Kelsey hire. On the same day Louisville hired the College of Charleston coach, 502 Circle set a new record for most new members in a single day. The collective offers membership levels ranging from $25 to $850 monthly.

Lucrative financial packages, just like the top-level of college football, are crucial in constructing college basketball teams. In college football, quarterbacks, EDGEs and offensive tackles typically earn the most collective dollars. Sources told On3 that big men, specifically centers, are the best comparison to quarterbacks as the top-of-the-line earners with the elite earning over $1 million.

This year’s Final Four is evidence of the impact big men have in the college game: NC State’s DJ Burns, Purdue’s Zach Edey and UConn’s Donovan Clingan.

“We’re all aware that there was a seismic shift in our industry in the last few years with the advent of name, image and likeness,” Kelsey said. “From the very beginning I was a huge proponent of it. … There’s no question in my mind. This is America, this is enterprise, this is capitalism. The young men and young women who participate at a high level of collegiate athletics deserve their share. It’s the absolute lifeblood of a program at a really high level that has national championship aspirations.”

Jeff Brohm backs Louisville NIL efforts

The new Louisville coach went 75-27 in three seasons at Charleston and is coming off back-to-back CAA regular-season and tournament championships. With Tuesday’s departure of Ty-Laur Johnson entering the transfer portal, every Louisville scholarship player from this past season has now left the program.

Former Charleston players Reyne Smith and James Scott have followed Pat Kelsey to the ACC. The Cardinals have also been in the mix for James Madison transfer guard Terrence Edwards Jr., the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year.

Kelsey will need to continue to lean on the 502 Circle collective as he rebuilds the program. The official NIL collective of Louisville athletics, the organization was key in helping Jeff Brohm piece together one of the top transfer portal classes in football.

“I think everyone is slightly aware that name, image and likeness has become a big part of collegiate sports,” Brohm said. “The way things are set up now, it’s something you have to take as much advantage of now, utilize, to help the program succeed. A lot of young athletes want to come in, and if they do well, to profit off of that. Resources now need to be spread out, you got to make sure you’re doing part within the rules. The great thing is we have a support system at the University of Louisville, supporters that really step up.”