Noteworthy former Wisconsin athletes and alumni are combining efforts to create The Varsity Collective Charitable Fund, Inc. (The Varsity Collective), which aims to create the definitive playbook on how Wisconsin student-athletes deserve to be supported in the NIL era to earn their value while bringing out their Badger best in the classroom, in the community, on the field, and in the game of life.
The Varsity Collective is the first and only donor- and alumni-led NIL collective working on behalf of University of Wisconsin student-athletes. The collective offers donation opportunities to a broad Badger community that includes organizations, donors, and fans.
The Varsity Collective is anchored in two purposes:
- Help student-athletes maximize their NIL through education, support and partnerships with community organizations.
- Equip student-athletes with lifelong insights and mentorship provided by Wisconsin alumni and former athletes at the top of professional fields like sports, finance, entrepreneurship, entertainment, marketing and communications and more.
In addition to its unmatched Life Currency™* and Rep Yourself programming, what sets The Varsity Collective apart from other donor-led collectives is its commitment to equitable access to NIL support and development programming for Badger student-athletes, regardless of gender or sport.
To bring this idea to life, The Varsity Collective will be guided by a Four Pillar Playbook that ensures sustainability, excellence and student-athlete empowerment:
- NIL Support – facilitating opportunities for student-athletes to support giveback partnerships that uplift the Badger community as part of its effort to support community 501(c)(3) organizations
- NIL Branding Support – training through a unique program, Rep Yourself, to help student-athletes navigate the NIL landscape, develop their personal brand, unlock new earnings opportunities, and build a profile for life after college
- Life Currency™ – creating a unique platform for student-athletes to learn from an extensive group of alumni athletes, businesspeople, and professionals across career disciplines, including mentorships and meaningful insights for every stage of the college experience and beyond
- Funding the Future – establishing a sustainable base of donors, businesses and 501(c)(3) charitable partnerships to foster ever-growing NIL opportunities for student-athletes
Several former Badger athletic stars who experienced professional success have committed to acting as Life Currency™ speakers to mentor current student-athletes, including:
- Russell Wilson (Football, c/o 2012)
- JJ Watt (Football, 2008-10)
- Sarah Nurse (Women’s Hockey, c/o 2017)
- Michael Finley (Men’s Basketball 1991-94; c/o 2014)
- Craig Smith (Men’s Hockey, 2009-11)
- Meghan Duggan (Women’s Hockey, c/o 2011)
- Dana Rettke (Women’s Volleyball, c/o 2021)
Additional Life Currency™ programming will be guided by Wisconsin alumni who have gone on to hold executive positions in major companies across a wide variety of industries, including:
- Ricky Sandler, Eminence Capital founder & CEO/CIO (c/o 1991)
- Wendy Straker Hauser, showrunner and executive producer (c/o 1997)
- Pete Marino, Molson Coors president of emerging growth (c/o 1994)
The collective will also invest in building a brand of its own, developing unique, sustainable opportunities to showcase current and former student-athletes alike through a variety of creative avenues. Two Varsity Collective podcasts hosted by former Badgers will lead the way in this effort:
- “The Varsity Beat,” hosted by former Badger basketball star Sam Dekker (2012-15)
- “Badger Bigs,” hosted by Badger football legend Joe Thomas (c/o 2007) and his wife, former Wisconsin women’s basketball player Annie (Nelson) Thomas (c/o 2006)
In a released statement from The Varsity Collective, Executive Chair Rob Master says, “The Varsity Collective is far more than just an avenue for Badger student-athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness. It’s an entire Badger community ready to rally behind them, lift them up and guide them as they become the best versions of themselves – during and after their playing careers.”
Learn more by visiting thevarsitycollective.com