The Wolverine

March 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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MARCH 2022 THE WOLVERINE 7 BY CHRIS BALAS AND ANTHONY BROOME T he Michigan athletics department took a step in the right direction in the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) movement with its Feb. 9 launch of the VICTORS Local Exchange, a student- athlete NIL business registry. The site was custom-designed for businesses, donors, alumni and other interested NIL dollars wishing to connect specifically with student-athletes at the University of Michigan. The university partnered with INFLCR, a content platform for athletes, to make it happen, the school reported in a release. Registered companies are able to search, filter and initiate conversations with student-athletes to discuss an NIL deal. Once the deal between a registered business and student-athlete(s) is com- pleted, the business can use the VICTORS Exchange to create a transaction that di- rectly pays the student-athlete (without any transaction fee) and automates a dis- closure to the INFLCR Verified Compli- ance Ledger. Michigan's VICTORS program ex- pands on existing U-M student-athlete programming in academic and career success, health and welfare, education, leadership development, Diversity Eq- uity and Inclusion, and personal branding programs hosted by institutional experts, including professors at the Ross Business School as well as other educators and business leaders from what is the nation's largest living alumni network. Up until the portal announcement, Michigan had been criticized for a per- ceived slow-moving approach to this de- veloping aspect of college sports. Board of Regents chair Jordan Acker addressed the university's NIL efforts during a recent appearance on Justin Spiro's "The Spiro Avenue Show." "Everybody picks their school, whether you're an athlete or you're a student, based on usually what you want to study, but also your earning potential," Acker said. "This is why students pick our school of musical theater and dance. If that's what their talent is and they want to go to Broadway, they know our school gives them a great shot to do that. "It's the same thing with student-ath- letes. You don't want to be in a situation where a school is able to just buy off kids. You have got to be really careful about that. That's a reasonable place for Michi- gan to be cautious on." Acker says U-M's approach has not been to strike while the iron is hot, but rather to create long-term, sustainable solutions for how to compete in the mar- ketplace. "We have to think about NIL not just in a one-year term or two-year term; we have to think about what it looks like five or 10 years from now," he said. "We have to think about it at U-M from a long-term perspective, which is how do we make NIL work for us as an institution and our student-athletes for the next five, 10 or 15 years. "I don't think Michigan is afraid, and I don't think we should be afraid, of dipping our toe even more into this water. I think it's where it's going." Acker believes those in power in Ann Arbor are responsible for being guardians of the brand and the institution, and not just throwing the logo and school colors on anything. The administration will also not budge on its academic standards, which are among the strongest for a public univer- sity. "We can do this in a way that protects our brand and protects our identity," he said. "We just have to be thoughtful about it, and I don't think we should be high on our hog [or say] we're not going to get in- volved in this. NIL. I understand it helps schools like Michigan, like Notre Dame, schools that have huge fan bases, huge TV followings huge followings everywhere in the country. "I'm not willing, and I'm not going to ever look at dropping our academic stan- dards. Michigan is Michigan, just like Notre Dame is Notre Dame and Stanford is Stanford. That's how it's going to be. "But the great equalizer is our brand. And I expect over the next one to five years that we're really going to take advantage of that in a really, really strong way." ❑ Inside Michigan ATHLETICS U-M's NIL Efforts Take A Major Step Forward With Dedicated Portal The VICTORS Local Exchange will help more Michigan athletes land NIL deals. Defensive end Aidan Hutchinson has been one of the most visible U-M student-athletes in the NIL market, selling T-shirts and signing deals with Bose and Traeger Grills, among others. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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