Illinois athletics hosts open house for area businesses looking to partner with Illini athletes

Sports

CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois athletes will soon be open for business and the Illinois athletic department is doing its best to position its student-athletes in the marketplace. Gov. Pritzker signed historic legislation into law on Tuesday, allowing college athletes across the state to profit off their name, image and likeness. SB 2338 is in the books but there are still a lot of questions about how it will all play out, as Illinois becomes the 13th state in the country to green light NIL laws on Thursday.

Illinois basketball coach Brad Underwood spoke at the Illinois Athletic Department’s Open House for potential businesses Tuesday night at the Smith Football Performance Center. He’s been a longtime supporter for the NIL movement and sees the potential for local and even national endorsements for his athletes.

“There’s a lot of blank pages, I’m curious to see how we write those pages, and fill them up, and I think the opportunity is fantastic,” Underwood said. “We have personalities, and guys that people want to be associated with, I think that’s something that sells and will want to be monetized. We do have charismatic guys and a lot of fun, so I think it could be very beneficial for them.”

Helping athletes through these uncarted waters is is former attorney Kam Cox. He was hired as the program coordinator for INFLUENCE, a resource designed to help Illini athletes with their personal branding.

“I’m really just excited to be here and creating a platform for the student athletes to empower them, empower themselves, and engage with the fans that they now have the ability to do,” Cox said.

To help bridge the gap between athletes and businesses, Illinois is partnering with a third party platform called Openendorse. Businesses can log onto the app, and book athletes for an autograph session, media appearance, even a social media posts. Dozens of current and even former Illini athletes already have profiles set up.

“There’s a lot of good things in place here, and we see some real potential for our 500 student athletes, we want them to capitalize, and we want the business to capitalize, and if we’re able to derive some benefit from it, that’s even better,” Cox said.

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