The Wolverine

August 2022*

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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22 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2022 BY CHRIS BALAS S chools are interpreting the new name, image, and likeness (NIL) rules differently when it comes to recruiting, a changing land- scape in college athletics for Michigan and others. As former U-M tight end Jake Butt said on a recent "TNT Wolver- ine" podcast, "You don't want to be the old man sitting on the porch saying, 'Get off my lawn, man. I don't want the col- lege football landscape to change.' "You adapt or die." For some schools — let's be honest, many, perhaps on the way to "most" — that means opening the checkbook and getting into bidding wars. No matter how it's spun, many of the deals now being brokered are about cash first. If you're not willing to bring a certain amount to the table, your school won't be a factor for many kids. That hasn't stopped Michigan from taking its own approach. The Champi- ons Circle collective isn't about "drop- ping bags," and Regent Jordan Acker and Champions Circle leader and former U-M linebacker Jared Wangler noted they won't be in the running for some of the kids like California 2023 four-star quarterback Jaden Rashada. He was re- ported to have signed a $9.5 million NIL deal with Miami booster John Ruiz before committing to the Hurricanes. It's unique, and only time will tell if it works. But for several months, Wangler said, those involved in the Michigan col- lective have been keeping a close eye on what's been going on. Since March 2021, in fact, they started formulating what a "best in class" NIL at Michigan would look like. "Every school is trying to come up with their own solution. Nobody really knows what that best-in-class concept is," he said. "On our end, we built out a sports agency to help service this at the University of Michigan. State law pro- hibits the University of Michigan, Michi- gan State and other universities in the state from facilitating NIL activity. In order to get this done right, the school legally cannot be involved to facilitate, to organize this collective or this sports marketing agency we put together. "[In June] we made an announcement, and the Champions Circle was formed. It's a collective of some of our top sup- porters at the University of Michigan — boosters, donors, whatever you call them. It's a group committed to mak- ing our NIL the premier program in the country. We've pulled together a fund, and we're going to be working with Michigan student-athletes to organize and set up compliant NIL deals and make sure their assessed NIL value is being met with our collective and with our sports marketing agency." And there won't be any corner-cutting. Acker insisted he wasn't telling Wangler what to do with the money, but it's clear they don't want them breaking the rules. There are ways to navigate through them aggressively, however, and they're continuing to figure out new ways to proceed. Eventually, Acker said, he ex- pects U-M to be a leader by example. "Most importantly is that all of this is evening the playing field between schools like Michigan that are not will- ing to bend the rules and schools that are," Acker said. "Michigan is an incred- ibly well-resourced school. Our brand is incredibly powerful. Four of the top five college football games this year in- volved us. "That brand needs to be harnessed, MICHIGAN MICHIGAN AND NIL AND NIL How U-M Plans To Navigate A Changing College Football Landscape: 'Transformational, Not Transactional' Is Jim Harbaugh's Approach The Champions Circle was launched in June. It is a donor-driven NIL collective whose mem- bers include some of the University of Michigan's top boosters and donors. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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