Oct 7, 2021 - Sports
University of Texas marries donors to athletes
University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson eludes a tackler.
Texas Longhorns running back Bijan Robinson (5) eludes a would-be tackler. Photo: Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With student-athletes now able to make money off their name and image, University of Texas officials have built a directory to connect boosters and students for hopeful sponsorship deals, per documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Known as the Leverage Lineup, the directory positions UT to compete with other big sports universities to recruit athletes — and helps satisfy donors eager to help their beloved alma mater.

  • Revenue regularly tops $200 million at UT, and profits from the football program are worth tens of millions of dollars.
  • UT athletes, with their visibility and thousands of social media followings, are a natural spokesmen and women.
  • A state law effective July 1 allows student-athletes at Texas universities to earn money for use of their name, image and likeness.

What they're saying: "In this new era of collegiate athletics with Name, Image and Likeness opportunities for our student-athletes, many of you have asked about ways to partner with them on NIL deals," athletic director Chris Del Conte wrote Longhorn Foundation donors in August.

  • Leverage Lineup, which includes contact information for more than 200 students across 15 sports programs, is "a hub for finding and contacting Texas student-athletes who may be interested in a partnership with you or your brand," Del Conte continued.
  • "We're excited about these amazing new opportunities for our student-athletes and look forward to continuing to watch them build their personal brands while representing the University of Texas at the highest level."
  • Del Conte wrote that the arrangement had been vetted by university lawyers. Under state rules, UT cannot be involved in actually providing compensation or arranging for a student-athlete to receive compensation for NIL activities.
  • UT has also set up educational sessions on personal brand development, business formation and entrepreneurship, career opportunity management and financial literacy.

Of note: Don't bother trying to pay UT quarterback Casey Thompson to promote your casino. Student-athletes cannot engage in any NIL activities in businesses prohibited under state law, per the guidance given to possible partners, including:

  • Alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Casino gambling or sports wagering
  • A firearm you cannot legally purchase
  • A sexually oriented business

The bottom line: UT student-athletes are earning long-overdue cash for the use of their names. Last month, the barbecue restaurant Pinkerton's announced it signed a contract with Heisman hopeful Bijan Robinson.

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