Level 13 Agency to pay Texas Tech women's basketball players $25K

On3 imageby:Andy Wittry08/09/22


Team-wide NIL deals aren’t new in college athletics, including at Texas Tech, where the nonprofit NIL collective The Matador Club signed 100 football players each to a $25,000 contract. What is new, however, is five-figure-per-player marketing deals in women’s basketball. That’s the financial commitment Level 13 Agency made to the Lady Raiders. The agency announced on Twitter in late July it has committed $25,000 per player.

In fact, The Matador Club’s $25,000 per-player commitment to Texas Tech’s football program helped inspire the recent team-wide deals for the Lady Raiders. Level 13 Agency is a NIL-specific sports marketing agency that co-founder and co-owner Kirk Noles said launched about a week after the start of the NCAA’s NIL era.

“After the football announcement a couple of weeks ago and the relationships we have with the women’s team, [we] wanted to make sure that they were taken care of as well,” Noles recently told On3.

Noles pointed to Texas Tech’s women’s basketball national championship team in 1993, which was led by 28-points-per-game scorer Sheryl Swoopes and coached by Marsha Sharp, as the one that helped create the program’s brand. Current Texas Tech women’s basketball coach Krista Gerlich also played on that team. Texas Tech retired the jerseys of Swoopes and Gerlich shortly after the championship season.

“That brand was already established,” Noles said. “There’s a lot of people that support women, that support women’s athletics, women-owned businesses. There are all kinds of stuff that just relates with that sector of advertising. It really wasn’t hard at all and honestly, so many people stepped up before we made the announcement, kind of started working those waters, but especially after we made that announcement. So many people wanted to be involved with that.

“The outpouring of support was just phenomenal. Couldn’t have been better.”

‘Every single one of them is valuable’ through NIL

When the NCAA released additional NIL guidance regarding third-party involvement in May, the guidance stated, “NIL agreements must be based on an independent, case-by-case analysis of the value that each athlete brings to a NIL agreement as opposed to providing compensation or incentives for enrollment decisions… athletic performance… achievement… or membership on a team.”

While members of the NCAA’s enforcement staff have made their presence known at a few schools, such as when enforcement staff talked to Miami booster John Ruiz and requested more information from Oregon regarding Division Street, it’s unclear if and how the NCAA will enforce its interim NIL policy.

Team-wide NIL or marketing deals could theoretically provide high-profile potential test cases for the NCAA’s additional guidance.

Will every player on a team receiving the same amount of compensation in publicly announced marketing deals receive scrutiny from members of the NCAA’s enforcement staff? Do third parties have any concerns about facilitating such a set of deals?

“You know, there’s not [concern about each player receiving $25,000],” Noles said. “Obviously, we want to make sure that everything we do is extremely compliant and the NCAA approves of it. But the way I see it is they all have an extreme amount of value for not only our agency but for this community in general. And there’s a lot of this community that wants to support the Lady Raider Nation as a whole. So, I think the fair market value, the answer to that is, ‘Yeah, it’s a fair market value amongst every girl in this program.’ You know, the value as a collective.”

As Noles explained it, in order to support every player on the team — in effect, the entire program — then $25,000 per player is what it costs. He’s aware that individual players on the team might warrant additional NIL opportunities on their own, too.

“Now, will some girls stand out more than others?” he asked rhetorically. “Will they be starters? Sure. But at the end of the day, these businesses want to be part of supporting a program and having the program itself support their businesses, so I think that would be the answer to that. If there are specific girls that these businesses want to work with, then obviously we’re going to facilitate that as well.

“We just see that every single one of them is valuable and we want to make sure that value is seen throughout the entire team.”

‘One show in town and that’s Texas Tech’

Lubbock, Texas, is about a five-hour drive from Dallas. It’s about eight hours from Houston.

The way Noles sees it, Texas Tech’s West Texas location could be a benefit, especially in the NIL era.

“The number one thing that we want any athlete to know, that if you come to Tech and you work with Level 13 or anybody in this community, we have one show in town and that’s Texas Tech athletics,” he said. “We’re not competing with the Mavericks or the Rockets. There are not any other professional sports teams within six hours of where we’re at. The opportunity here is endless.”

Noles believes that because of the financial investment from Texas Tech fans and the Lubbock business community, Texas Tech coaches don’t even need to say anything about their athletes’ current NIL deals when recruiting high school athletes. After all, it’s not a recruiting inducement to say, “Here’s what my players are currently earning from NIL deals.”

“I think when there are recruits on trips or if someone wants to be here, they see what’s in the news,” Noles said. “They talk to these current players and that’s the best recruiting you can have is that, ‘Hey, we lived up to our word. We did what we said we were going to do and here’s what our current players are currently experiencing.’ That word of mouth, that’s all the recruiting you need these days. You don’t have to induce players.

“You don’t have to have coaches say [anything], we just live up to what we say we’re going to do and those players actually talk about it for us.”

Players will be paid monthly for their NIL

Each Texas Tech women’s basketball player will receive compensation on a monthly basis.

“We don’t do any lump-sum payments,” Noles said.

Players will not only promote Level 13 Agency, but also partner businesses through social media posts, autograph sessions, in-person appearances and commercials. In Noles’ words, there are “a thousand different ways” to do so.

“We essentially contract the players with our agency and then the community contracts us to get the players to do the marketing,” he said.

Noles provided examples of businesses in the community that have contacted Level 13 Agency.

A local bank wanted to work with a women’s basketball player from West Texas “that just kind of fits with their narrative as a bank,” he said. A female-owned and operated real estate company specifically wanted to partner with Texas Tech women’s basketball team, too. Other businesses, Noles said, originally expressed interest in partnering with players on the men’s basketball team but also wanted to join the efforts in supporting women’s basketball players as well.

“Obviously, it’s good for business and they have great social media presences,” Noles said, “but at the same time, it’s also, ‘Hey, we’re a business that supports this movement,’ and that’s great recognition as well.”