Michigan football boosters launch 'Champions Circle' NIL collective

clayton-sayfieby:Clayton Sayfie06/10/22

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The University of Michigan was not one of the dozens of schools to have a donor-driven collective for NIL … until Friday. The Wolverines have entered the scene, with boosters launching ‘Champions Circle.’ The Detroit News’ Angelique S. Chengelis was the first to report the news.

“Collectives, which are independent of a university, can serve a variety of purposes,” On3’s Eric Prisbell explained. “Most often, they pool funds from boosters and businesses, help facilitate NIL deals for athletes and also create their own ways for athletes to monetize their brands.”

Valiant Management, run by former Michigan football player Jared Wangler and former U-M hockey athlete Niko Porikos, is the leading sports marketing agency specializing in connecting University of Michigan athletes with fans and businesses via NIL opportunities. The company partnered with boosters to create the Champions Circle.

The program is starting with the football team and has plans of expanding to other sports in due time.

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Valiant has helped numerous Michigan athletes profit off their name, image and likeness, and has secured nearly $1 million in NIL deals per the company’s website.

Deals the organization has helped Michigan athletes sign include group licensing apparel deals with the football, basketball and hockey teams, signing events at The MDen, marketing partnerships with local and national brands, media appearances, signed memorabilia, podcast appearances, NFTs and private training sessions.

Michigan intent on ‘doing things the right way’ regarding NIL collectives

Michigan will not wade into the murky waters of NIL collectives when it comes to recruiting. It’s against NCAA rules for boosters on behalf of a school to offer money to prospective student athletes, and the Wolverines insist they won’t join others who have been rumored to engage in the practice. They are also intent on making sure athletes earn their money and don’t receive it without working for it.

“If ‘collective’ means pooling money together and giving people money for just being a student athlete at Michigan, I’m against it,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said on the Conqu’ring Heroes podcast, discussing collectives, not specifically the Champions Circle. “If collective means providing opportunities and resources, and pooling them together, and providing them to student athletes and ensuring that they’re doing something for that benefit, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. And I’m supportive of collectives that do things the right way.

“We are not in the inducement business here. I can’t say anybody else has or has not — I’ll let the general public and things that are out there in the public be what it is. But that’s not what it should be about. That’s not what a collective should be. A collective should be to put resources together — be it jobs, be it opportunities for social media, signing, whatever people want to do. But in order to participate in that and to receive anything, our student athletes should have to do something for that just like anybody else.”

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has said on numerous occasions that Michigan strives to be a “transformational experience, not a transactional experience.” Now, through the Champions Circle, in part, it has the chance to be both.

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