AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) initiative called the Clark Field Collective launched Wednesday, with the group saying they’ve already got $10 million pledged from Texas business owners, University of Texas alumni, and other donors.
The goal of the collective is to facilitate NIL deals between businesses, donors, fans and athletes, and serve as a support network that will help educate student athletes. Ultimately, the collective aims to become the largest fund in the country for college players, according to the their press release.
The collective, started by sports and music marketer Nick Shuly, already has the backing of big names among UT athletics, including former NBA player TJ Ford and NFL player Kenny Vaccaro.
Ford and Vaccaro will be board members for the collective.
“With Austin now home to some of the biggest businesses in the world, we knew there was an easy way to connect the business community to athletes — while creating something that not only facilitates opportunity, but also educates and helps prepare them for life after sports,” said Ford, a former UT basketball player of the year who spent nine years in the NBA, according to the release.
“This is the wild, wild west,” said Mike Murphy, owner of Last Stand Hats.
He was one of the first Austin businesses to seal an NIL deal and has since inked dozens with student athletes at UT and beyond.
Murphy wants to know more about how the collective will work but is interested in joining.
“I’d like to see what their backend and process is, but I’m, I’m very excited for what they’re doing,” he said.
UT sports and human rights law professor Ariel Dulitzky said he hopes the collective will set aside money for mental health.
“The financial incentives, while in one way could have a very positive impact, on the other, could create also anxiety and stress for many student athletes,” he said.
Dulitzky said students are also dealing with the impacts of a pandemic on their play and reckoning with racial controversies like the “Eyes of Texas.”
“So, besides all the traditional stress of just playing at the competitive level, there are all these surrounding stresses,” he said.
Shuley explained the collective’s plan is to make sure anyone interested will be able to participate in NIL opportunities, with a focused board and representatives for each one to help secure NIL deals.
“The plan to create committees for each sport with equal representation will help advocate for current athletes within their specific programs. I’m most interested in seeing the young women athletes of Texas get what they deserve through this network and support,” said Juliann Johnson, a professional volleyball player, and former UT three-time All-American, in the press release.
Dulitzky and Murphy hope the network makes good on that plan and creates equal opportunities.
“Bridge those gaps and to try to overcome some of the traditional and systemic inequalities across sport and also across genders,” Dulitzky said.
“I think this will also help, like from bottom to top versus just your premier players. I think it’s going to help out everybody,” Murphy said.
UT’s associate athletics director told KXAN they could not comment on the collective. He said athletes are required to notify their schools of their deals, but the school cannot be involved in NIL deals, per state law.