New NIL platform connects Razorback athletes with state nonprofits

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,595 views 

A new platform launched Wednesday (Aug. 17) will provide Arkansas Razorback athletes an additional opportunity to capitalize on their name, image and likeness (NIL).

OneArkansas NIL is the name of the initiative. According to a news release, it will help Razorback athletes “connect, educate, and facilitate their charitable efforts while serving fellow Arkansans and others.”

“As a OneArkansas NIL ambassador, student-athletes will have the opportunity to serve various nonprofits throughout the Natural State and beyond as they impact lives in powerful and effective ways,” Marvin Caston, the marketplace’s executive director, said in a statement. “As a former collegiate student-athlete in Arkansas, I know the passion, pride, and support of the Arkansas fanbase is unmatched. I am confident that with OneArkansas NIL, we will see the same passionate support of student-athletes and charitable organizations throughout our state.”

For more than a year, college athletes have been allowed varying degrees of new protections and opportunities to make money by selling their NIL rights. The NCAA announced the rule change on July 1, 2021.

Caston said OneArkansas NIL is for Razorback athletes currently enrolled at the UA in Fayetteville, not prospective athletes.

There are connections between OneArkansas NIL and the nonprofit Razorback Foundation Inc., the private fundraising arm that raises millions of dollars in support of the University of Arkansas athletics department.

Caston, a UA football player in the late 1990’s, joined the Razorback Foundation in 2009. In response to a question about the new platform, Caston said OneArkansas NIL is a “single-member LLC,” and the foundation is the sole owner. According to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office, Razorback Foundation Executive Director and General Counsel Scott Varady is the LLC’s manager and registered agent.

Caston stressed that OneArkansas NIL would “function and operate completely separate” from the Razorback Foundation.

According to the release, OneArkansas NIL will select and assign Razorback athletes to work alongside nonprofit organizations to advance their charitable missions through various activities. That could be assisting in public awareness and fundraising through social media campaigns, appearances, autograph events, youth camps and other opportunities.

Caston said OneArkansas NIL is working on selecting its first group of athletes, most likely from the fall sports.

“We’re working to incorporate student-athletes who have already been on campus and blend in other sports as we go,” he said.

The operating model is similar to Athlete Advocate Consortium. Springdale businessman Bryan Hunt and his wife Mandy formed the new organization in January to guide college athletes in the new NIL era. AAC also connects nonprofits with Razorback athletes.

“I haven’t thought about it that way, but I am sure there are some concepts and elements that are the same [as AAC],” Caston said.

OneArkansas NIL will use charitable donations to compensate Razorback athletes for their NIL rights and services they provide under written agreements. Caston said athletes could enter into agreements with multiple nonprofits.

Wednesday’s announcement solicited tax-deductible donations to OneArkansas NIL. Caston said a website is in development. In the meantime, interested supporters may reach Caston at [email protected] or Will Landreth at [email protected]. Landreth was previously a compliance coordinator in the UA athletics department. He now works full-time for OneArkansas NIL and offices at the Razorback Foundation.

According to the Associated Press, an estimated $917 million was spent on the first year of NIL deals from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022. In the second year, the estimated total spend is expected to reach $1.14 billion. The estimates are from the NIL platform Opendorse.