Their name will be revered by those they inspired to wear the four letters.
It will enhance their image by starting a business as college students.
Their likeness will be displayed on the buttons worn at UCLA games, as their fellow athletes from the school gather to cheer them on as they get paid.
A year after the NIL era, the latest money-making effort to reach Westwood is packed with innovations. It will be run by Bruins athletes from all sports. They will make the decisions. They will collect money. They will focus the program on community engagement and fan engagement.
Athletes will earn by participating in events, serving on advisory boards, and fundraising. Show them the money, yes, but also look to show them the many ways you can strengthen the UCLA sports community.
“Money is nice, don’t get me wrong, but we’re not trying to make a dollar here,” said UCLA guard Jaylen Clark, who is part of the Bruin Fan Alliance NIL collective scheduled to start Thursday. “We’re really here to help the people around us rather than trying to make a quick buck and then go on with our lives and do a little something at camp – that’s not it at all. We all have our hearts in the right place.”
The concept was created by BFA chairman Gene Karzen, a UCLA graduate who took $50,000 to start the athlete-run nonprofit, working as a consultant with former Bruins stars like Olympic gold medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson. Current athletes to prepare the program.
If linebacker Carl Jones Jr. wants to hold a football clinic in his hometown of Bakersfield, go for it. If Clark wants to bring a group of Bruins to the Inland Empire to inspire kids where he grew up, that’s fine.
“We can do something truly unprecedented,” Karzen said. “We are introducing the NIL model within a charity run and owned by current and former athletes.”
Big names like running back Zach Charbonnet, point guard Tiger Campbell and sprinter Shae Anderson are among nearly 30 UCLA athletes in nine sports registered and more are expected to score. Athletes will raise funds through social media and word of mouth, pocketing 20% of donations sent directly to a link on the BFA website.
Karzen, who relinquished control of the BFA he founded in 2015, estimates that the athletes will earn about 75% of all money that comes in, with the balance going toward operating expenses and former UCLA athletes who will provide support services such as finance. Give advice. The goal is for the collective to raise between $750,000 and $1 million a year.
For some of these old Bruins, the opportunity to reconnect with those who did what they used to do will be invaluable.
If I can help some guys grow up that could be future five stars or whatever, and they look back on that and say, ‘Oh, I want to go to UCLA and be a Bruin,’ that would be amazing to me.
– UCLA guard Jaylen Clark
“It was hard for the former athletes, the kids — once they left, they didn’t really come back to campus,” said Dietrich Riley, a former Bruins safety who now serves as the liaison between the collegiate and athletic department. “So now we’ve got guys coming back and showing their faces and also fitting in with charity work and being able to work with current athletes, it’s pretty cool, it’s special.”
The effort has already led to new friendships among athletes from different sports who often find themselves siloed among teammates. In a recent event that served as a test run before the official release, Campbell went one-on-one with cornerback Jaylin Davies and buried a jumper over Davies’ outstretched arm.
“I’ve never met a basketball team before,” wide receiver Logan Loya said, “which is a big deal.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared nearly 2½ years ago, Bruins athletes haven’t had much interaction with fans either. That changed at BFA’s Memorial Day weekend football youth clinic with the Los Angeles Police Department as Keegan Jones returned passes, Charbonnet signed a football and running back Desh Murrell wore cowboy boots.
The group then visited the nearby Pueblo Del Rio housing project to draw baskets with children on rickety backboards with wheels without nets. The hope is that some of the kids who love these encounters will be tempted to follow their heroes to Westwood.
“If I can help some kids grow up to be five stars in the future and they look back on that and say, ‘Oh, I want to go to UCLA and be a Bruin,’ that would be amazing to me. said Clark, one of three athlete ambassador captains who will be heavily involved in decision-making.
The collective has planned a strong schedule in the coming weeks to begin work and tell the ways it can serve the community. Remember the shabby backboards at Pueblo Del Rio? At a ceremony on July 27, the group will unveil the updated pitch, which will be adorned with new backboards and the BFA logo. Three days later, the group will hold a fundraiser barbecue in Irvine that will allow athletes to mingle with fans.
Starting this fall, the team will celebrate the athlete ambassador of the week by wearing buttons bearing their name and meeting with fans for pregame drinks or food before reconvening to root the athlete on campus. BFA-affiliated athletes who perform will receive an appearance fee.
“The idea is that you develop a more passionate, engaged fan base,” Karzen said. “All the fans see what’s going on and they’re going to say, ‘What band is that?’ They are fantastic.’ While they’re there, they’ll certainly be telling the public who they are, what they’re doing, and please check out the website for all the things we’re doing in the community.”
Karzen also envisioned a program in which the team recruits at-risk kids with athletic talent and places them on 15 to 20 club-style teams, each coached by a UCLA athlete. The collective will provide tutoring, life counseling and nutritional support to each child in hopes of earning an athletic or academic college scholarship, some of which may end up in Westwood as part of the charity.
“We see so many other schools across the country that their athletes are compensated,” Riley said, “but is that really impacting the community? Is it really going to be genuine among others? You can impact the community working with kids and at the end of the day, you’re getting a fan. , you’re going to have them go home and say they have opportunities to work with Devin Kirkwood or a kid like Stephan Blaylock or Jaylin Davies or Zach Charbonnet. How special is that?
“Guess you’ll have fans for life and kids will look up to you for years to come. That’s what UCLA lacked.”
Now that the Bruins have it, the athletes on the team are gaining business and leadership skills that can open the door to other NIL opportunities, not to mention graduate work. In the meantime, they look forward to having fun representing their school and pocketing some extra cash.
“It’s kind of like my dream job,” Clark said, “because I can just be myself.”