Illini Guardians is latest group formed to help college athletes get NIL deals

Illinois C Kofi Cockburn is part of 150 of school's 550 athletes that already landed NIL agreements, his with T/CCI Manufacturing in DecaturGETTY IMAGES

Illini Guardians co-Founder Adam Fleischer said that the newly launched NIL group "will team up with community organizations" so that Univ. of Illinois athletes "can be paid for conducting camps and making public appearances," according to John Keilman of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The group also plans "big money deals" that could "land some star players six figures." Fleischer, a UI alum and Chicago attorney, said that with "other alumni-formed NIL groups popping up at schools," having one in place is "becoming a competitive necessity." Fleischer: "There are programs that have been created simply to put the kids awash in money." Keilman noted about 150 of Illinois' 550 athletes have "already landed NIL agreements." Fleischer said that the Guardians are "teaming with Chicago Positive Impact, an organization founded by former Illini basketball player Tracy Abrams, to offer mentoring and coaching to Chicago Public Schools students." He indicated that the group "envisions another tier of service that would connect 'interested parties in the Illini corporate and business worlds' with athletes whose marketability would justify a six-figure deal." Fleischer said, "If you do this right, it’s kind of a shining example of the way a university system is supposed to be" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/22).

TAKE ME HOME: In West Virginia, Bob Hertzel took a closer look at the forming of Country Roads Trust, noting D-backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick proposed to former West Virginia AD Oliver Luck that the two "put together" the company to "help create these NIL opportunities" for WVU athletes. Luck: “I give a lot of credit to Ken Kendrick. He’s been around. He became accustomed to the old rules, but he called me and said 'Oliver, we’re in danger of being left behind.'” On the NIL opportunities, Luck said, “It’s happening across college sports. Not just the Power 5 but the Group of 5, all FBS schools.” When asked if Country Roads Trust was an agency, Luck said, “I don’t know if it’s an agency. We’re not taking a cut. ... We are trying to provide as many opportunities as possible to Mountaineer athletes on all teams without taking a cut. We will have overhead, but we think we can pay for that with donations. We want to make sure the student-athletes are getting 100% of what they bargained for.” Luck and Kendrick have assembled a "strong advisory team that includes Jerry West, Don Nehlen, [Pat] White, Pat McAfee, Olympic gold medal winner in rifle Ginny Thrasher and Da’Sean Butler, among others" (, 1/22).

DEDICATING A DEPARTMENT: In Louisville, Tim Sullivan noted Univ. of Louisville interim AD Josh Heird is planning a standalone NIL department committed to "putting more cash in the pockets of college athletes." UL previously contracted with Opendorse to "assist athletes in social media brand-building" through a program known as Elevate. Heird’s hope is to "build on that base" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 1/22).

HOMETOWN HERO: In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura noted Georgia Tech basketball G Michael Devoe signed an endorsement deal with the law firm Morgan & Morgan, which has "featured him on billboards near Tech’s campus." Devoe is second in the ACC in scoring at 19.4 points per game and is a "candidate for All-ACC honors." The firm is based in Orlando, Devoe’s hometown. Morgan & Morgan struck a "similar deal" with Georgia DT Jordan Davis, and has "had others with football and basketball players from Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/21).

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