Lions Legacy Club becomes first NIL collective to focus exclusively on Penn State football
United by their passion for Penn State football, former players Chris Ganter, Ki-Jana Carter and Michael Mauti joined forces last spring to create a football-focused collective NIL. Only they didn’t want to call the Lions Legacy Club a “collective.”
“One of the reasons we call it a club and not a collective is because it’s something for all of us, for every Penn Stater,” Ganter said in an interview. “…We all want Penn State football to be great. In many ways, it’s the lifeblood of fall in Happy Valley and a face for college, and it’s really going to get us all .”
Lions Legacy Club represents Penn State’s first football-only NIL initiative. While related collectives, including Success With Honor and Nittany Commonwealth, support athletes in Penn State’s 31 varsity sports, the Lions Legacy Club will exclusively support the Nittany Lions football team. It will also feature a nonprofit option, allowing donors to make tax-deductible donations to any Penn State team.
Ganter, a former Penn State quarterback whose father Fran was the team’s longtime offensive coordinator, is the general manager of the Lions Legacy Club. Ganter, Carter and Mauti have partnered with Blueprint Sports, a Las Vegas-based agency backed by former tennis player Andre Agassi, to develop a membership platform and engagement process that connects players with fans and donors.
The Lions Legacy Club has secured seed funding from several as-yet-unknown investors, and Ganter said the group has set a fundraising goal of $5 million by the end of 2022. It wants to provide NUL opportunities to every Penn State football player, including on foot. so.
Additionally, Ganter said the fundraising goal will allow the Lions Legacy Club to do something “huge” in 2023.
“We have to be competitive in this area,” Ganter said. “But we also understand that it’s extremely important to be strategic. We’ve put a lot of time, thought and effort into that. And we have a great plan for that.”
The origin story of the Lions Legacy Club
Ganter, who played quarterback at Penn State from 2002 to 2004, has worked at a cross section of sports and entertainment companies over the past 15 years. He worked for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was operations coordinator at Nick Jonas Productions, led a tour for the band North of Nine and even became a registered screenwriter with the Writers Guild of America. Penn State football remained a constant throughout his career.
When Pennsylvania passed its NIL legislation in 2021, Ganter began organizing opportunities for football players. Among them was a tailgate with Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson after last year’s Penn State-Villanova game. Wanting to do more, Ganter began exploring a football-only NIL collective.
At the same time, Carter, the former Penn State running back who finished second in the 1994 Heisman vote, was pursuing his own NIL initiative. Carter lives in South Florida, where billionaire John Ruiz has spent around $7 million on NIL contracts with Miami athletes, according to Sports Illustrated. Carter wondered, “What does my college do?
“It seemed like there was no continuity between someone who was really focused on the football program,” Carter said. “And obviously, given that we’re a powerhouse and a very big program, we can’t make that happen.”
Carter turned to longtime friend Rob Sine, a Penn State graduate and former rugby player who is a prominent figure in the sports industry. Sine has worked in the NBA, served as vice president of the Pac-12, and served as president of Learfield IMG College Ticket Solutions. In 2020, he co-founded Blueprint Sports, a sports marketing agency that now works with nine NIL collectives nationwide.
Ganter, Carter and Mauti had all been in contact with the Penn State athletic department about launching NIL initiatives. After realizing this, they united under the Blueprint Sports banner with the Lions Legacy Club.
“You look at all the people who have worn these shirts and represented this team on and off the pitch,” Sine said. “That’s why that name was so perfect for me. It’s about heritage.”
Why a Penn State-only football collective?
Penn State has more than 800 athletes in 31 varsity sports, all of whom are eligible for NIL opportunities. However, said Ganter, football is a “different beast”.
“It’s so important to the athletics department and this university, so we really felt there had to be a football-only thing,” Ganter said.
Lions Legacy Club management has engaged in discussions with football coach James Franklin, athletic director Patrick Kraft and fellow NIL collectives at Penn State to gauge support and ensure compatibility. All parties were supportive, Sine said.
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“What I’ve learned through the rest of our company is that it’s selfless to come in and say, ‘Hey, let’s support all the student-athletes. It’s a lot of work,” Sine said. “Being able to have sustained focus allows us to produce the best results.”
Franklin said he appreciates the support of all NIL collectives at Penn State, noting that “we are all pulling the rope in the same direction.”
“Obviously some people are going to have a connection to certain sports that they’re more passionate about,” Franklin said. “We appreciate what they do. Obviously there’s a lot of passion and hard work that’s going to go into it. … We look forward to whatever opportunities they can present to our student-athletes and our community. program.”
Which Lions Legacy donations are tax deductible?
The Lions Legacy Club offers membership levels ranging from $60 to $1,200 per year. Donors can make one-time contributions, sign specific sponsorship agreements with players, and create custom pledges with one or more players. These are part of the commercial side of the collective.
The Lions Legacy Club will also offer fans the opportunity to make tax-deductible donations through a nonprofit foundation. Blueprint Sports recently launched the BPS Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that “mobilizes college athletes to help teach how hard work, discipline, focus, and continuous training can make young athlete’s dreams come true.” ,” according to its website.
Individuals and organizations can make a tax-deductible donation to Penn State athletes or teams (not just football) through the BPS Foundation. In turn, the BPS Board of Directors directs these funds to the Lions Legacy Club with instructions on scheduling athletes for appearances at local schools, religious organizations, hospitals or charities.
Participating athletes receive compensation for their appearances, and for-profit and non-profit entities are separate.
“One of the ideas is that it’s designed to be able to provide that option for people who are looking to donate six figures or more and get a tax deduction for it,” Sine said. “Operationally, we had to make sure there was a separation, but it’s been welcomed by other collectives, and we’re excited to roll it out here as well.”
The future of the Lions Legacy Club
Ganter and Carter said Penn State literati representing multiple decades are eager to support the collective. It won’t be a specific recruiting tool (“We’re here to take care of the guys on the team,” Ganter said), but coaches can direct prospects and their families to the website to understand how they might benefit.
Carter emphasized the educational component. He and other players often discussed NIL, usually asking, “What would we have when we were playing?” Ultimately, however, Carter wants players to know that their college experience will depend on more than just NIL.
“You’re trying to educate kids by saying, ‘Don’t just bounce around and go to different schools just because of the money you’re going to get from [NIL], because you’re so wrong,” Carter said. “Now if your goal is to get to the NFL, you want to be surrounded by strong coaches to help you get there. And of course, you can take care of your name, your image and your likeness at the same time.”
Although his company operates other collectives, Sine said he wants the Lions Legacy Club “to be the best collective in college football.”
“I mean, it’s my heart,” he said.
Ditto Ganter, who, remember, worked with the Jonas Brothers – who famously recorded a video for White Out 2019. Ganter said he had “a few special surprises” and “really cool things” planned for him. this season and beyond.
“There are very few things I care about more than Penn State football,” Ganter said. “And I want it to be something that goes really well for our players, something that they are proud to be a part of.”
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