Mar 11, 2022 - Sports

Collective wants to help UGA college athletes cash in on deals

A green-and-white letterman's jacket with a dollar sign patch on the breast pocket
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Student athletes at the University of Georgia who want to cash in on their athletic success now have a one-stop shop collective — likely the first of its kind in Georgia — to help them scout and sign deals.

Why it matters: The NCAA’s decision last summer to allow student athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness sparked a mad rush and has created a largely unregulated landscape that varies state by state and even school by school.

  • Big schools with big athletics programs are served by collectives, and a school’s name, image and likeness (or NIL) program will be just as important a recruiting tool as great facilities, professional scouts relationships, and the nightlife scene.

Details: Called the Classic City Collective, the company helps players in all of UGA’s athletics programs and businesses link up to sign one-off paid promotions or longer-term contracts, like a regular spot in a local fast-food commercial or billboard ads for a car dealership. Icon Source, a sports marketing company and collective partner, created the platform.

  • Overseen by a board made of business leaders and former UGA athletes, the collective isn’t officially tied to the school, but its CEO Matt Hibbs has received glowing endorsements from coach Kirby Smart and athletics director Josh Brooks.
  • Director of operations John Staton IV played on the 2021 national championship team and has strong ties to current players.

The fine print: Players pocket all they cash they make, and UGA’s NIL policy prohibits athletes from using the school's intellectual property without permission.

“We try to make the process very easy because its a complex deal. If youve never done something like this, its kind of intimidating. When things are intimidating people just throw in the towel and they dont do anything.”
Matt Hibbs, the Classic City Collective CEO who previously led the UGAs athletics compliance department.

Show us the money: The collective will keep the lights on through “contributions” from fans and supporters, who will also have the option to donate to the collective’s DGD fund — "Damn good Dawg" for the unfamiliar — that supports charitable causes.

Yes, but: Now, it’s up to the schools to regulate themselves. And there’s debate as to whether the financial deals should be subject to transparency laws. (In November, Georgia Tech denied Axios’ open records request for detailed information on players’ deals.)

One more thing: Don’t expect football stars to walk away with all the deals. Matthew Boling, a UGA track star with 209,000 followers on Instagram, likely has the largest social media presence of any student-athlete at the school, Hibbs says.

  • “Obviously, there’s gonna be plenty of opportunities for football,” he says. “Everyone loves football. I get that. We have tons to sell at [UGA] beyond the football program.”
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