Michigan athletics has made history.
In the wake of new name, image, and likeness (NIL) regulations by the NCAA, the University of Michigan partnered with The M Den, in a deal that is believed to be the first of its kind.
The M Den will now be able to sell custom Michigan football jerseys, meaning customers can have their name and a personal number on a Wolverine jersey. Currently, retailers are not allowed to sell jerseys with the name of a current NCAA athlete on them. With this new customizable deal, however, The M Den can now sell jerseys with the name of a current player, if the jersey is a custom order. The store cannot, however, outright sell the jersey of a current player as a non-custom order.
“We could print any of the other 10 billion people on the planet with their name and number on the planet, except for the current players, two weeks ago,” The M Den president and co-owner Scott Hirth said. “So, the only thing that changed is now we can add to the 10 billion people on the planet, the 130 players on the team.”
The deal exploits a loophole that’s been exposed by the new NCAA regulations regarding NIL, and could change in the future as college sports grows into the new era of athletes owning their names.
Michigan football athletes will be paid quarterly for custom orders with their names, and each player is paid the same amount for each jersey sold.
“We’re trying to maximize this for Michigan and make it the premier school for NIL,” former Michigan football player Jared Wangler said, per ESPN.
Wangler founded Valiant Management Group, an NIL agency that seeks to help athletes secure NIL contracts with businesses.
In the new age of college athletics, it would not be surprising to see more athletic programs begin partnering with businesses in order to generate income based on players’ image and likeness as a way to recruit top-tier talent.
Unless the NCAA cracks down on the loophole, the Michigan football program may be the first in the United States to have an organized merchandising deal that allows players to be paid.
It’s a deal that could start to be copied around the country in the near future.