The Million Dollar Group Licensing NIL Deal

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Hey Friends,

If you don’t follow Michigan State athletics, you probably don’t know who Mat Ishbia is — but you should. Mat joined the basketball team at Michigan State as a preferred walk-on back in 1998. He was a four-year letterman under legendary coach Tom Izzo, winning one national championship and attending three Final Fours.

But given he only played about 40 minutes of live game action throughout his entire collegiate career, Mat isn’t exactly known for being a star basketball player. So instead, he chose a different path.

Ishbia originally thought he wanted to follow in Tom Izzo’s footsteps, spending one year as an assistant coach on the Michigan State staff, but shortly thereafter, Ishbia decided to join United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM).

UWM is a wholesale mortgage lending business that his dad founded a few years prior, underwriting loans for mortgage brokers, banks, and credit unions. And when Mat Ishbia joined in 2003, he officially became employee #12.

The craziest part: Just a decade later, in 2013, Mat had worked his way up, was named CEO, and moved his staff of now 1,200 employees into a new 300,000 square foot headquarters in Michigan.

The business has continued to grow throughout the last several years — they now have more than 4,000 employees — and UWM decided to go public via SPAC at a $16 billion valuation earlier this year.

The result? Mat Ishbia’s 70% equity stake was worth $12.6 billion after the first day of trading, enough to make him one of the 50 richest people in America.

For context, that’s a higher net worth than Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Dwayne Wade…combined. Not bad for a walk-on.

In the short time since taking UWM public via SPAC, Mat Ishbia has quickly become one of the most influential donors at his alma mater Michigan State.

Ishbia donated $32 million earlier this year for a significant expansion of the Spartans’ athletics facilities, including a new football facility and renaming the basketball court at Breslin Center after Tom Izzo.

“This donation is not about me, this is to give credit to and thank coach Tom Izzo, the business school, and Michigan State University for the incredible impact they have had on my life,” Ishbia said in a release.

That was one of the single biggest donations in school history. Still, with new NIL rules reshaping the landscape of college athletics, Mat Ishbia has decided to double down on his support of MSU athletics.

Ishbia announced a group NIL deal with Michigan State’s football and basketball teams yesterday, where UWM will pay all MSU players, including walk-ons, $500 per month for the entire year.

Quick Math

133 MSU student-athletes

x $500 per month payment

= $798k annual payment by UWM

In exchange, players will be required to promote UWM throughout the year on social media.

There is typically a high level of nuance to these deals. For example, each player has to opt-in to the agreement individually, and we aren’t sure if it includes an exclusivity clause.

Still, this is one of the largest group licensing deals we have seen in the NIL era and provides a fascinating look at what might be the future of collegiate athletics.

Think of it this way — if a program can rack up 4-5 of these deals with companies in different industries and secure players a salary of $40,000-plus before they even step foot on campus, wouldn’t that give them a significant advantage in recruiting?

The answer is yes, of course, but I don’t think it’ll stop there. The highest level recruits can make more than $500 per month on partnerships, and boosters will only get more creative in their ability to funnel cash that was previously reserved for donations to athletes through group licensing agreements.

We’ll see how it all unfolds, but it’s important to remember that NIL is only two months old at this point. We still have a long way to go. Things will change, evolve, and grow, but it’ll be fascinating to see how it all unfolds.

Have a great day. I’ll talk to everyone tomorrow.

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Huddle Up is a daily newsletter that breaks down the business and money behind sports.

If you would like to join more than 47,000 other professional athletes, business executives, and casual sports fans that receive it directly in their inbox each morning, subscribe now.


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