Depicting UNC Tar Heels mascot Rameses alongside Mia Hamm and Danny Green
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

UNC Announces Innovative Deal to Pay Former Star Athletes

As the NCAA player compensation debate continues, former Tar Heel athletes can now get paid for their likeness in a first-of-its kind deal with the Brandr Group.

The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill just inked a deal that adds a fascinating wrinkle to the college athlete pay standoff. This week, the school announced a multi-year agreement with marketing and licensing agency the Brandr Group that will allow group licensing for former members of its women’s soccer and men’s basketball teams.

In other words, despite their college days being behind them, those athletes will now be able to monetize what they accomplished during their careers wearing a UNC uniform as voluntary participants in a new kind of marketing partnership.

These two teams have been dominant forces in their respective sports for decades, winning a combined 28 national championships: 21 on the women’s side and seven for the men.

The Brandr Group is a proven name in the field, with partnerships that include the NFL, MLB, and NBA players unions. However, this deal marks their first foray into the world of college sports — and promises to be one that’s widely emulated in the months and years to come.

“This is a very innovative concept, and it shows how a group license can be utilized to benefit former college players as well as fans. We are looking forward to having products available at retail for UNC fans later in 2021,” Brandr Group President and Founder Wesley Haynes told Raleigh television station WRAL.

Fans will finally be able to own official UNC merch featuring the names and numbers of their favorite former Tar Heels. Thanks to the broad scope of the licensing agreement, they can also expect not just jerseys, but novelty items like Monopoly games.

For the former athletes, they will finally be able to receive compensation for the magic that they created while wearing Carolina Blue. Over 100 members of the UNC family have already agreed to participate, including soccer superstars and World Cup champions Mia Hamm and Heather O’Reilly, all-time leading men’s basketball scorer Tyler Hansbrough, three-time NBA champion Danny Green, and newly-appointed men’s basketball head coach Hubert Davis.

The deal comes at a time during which player compensation at the college level is a truly hot topic of conversation.  UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said on the occasion that he sees the deal as “the next appropriate iteration of name, image, and likeness for our current student-athletes.”

Although he acknowledged that the deal was separate from the NIL proceedings currently playing out before the US Supreme Court, Cunningham sees it as an amazing opportunity for past athletes to share in the revenue opportunities.

Additionally, the school may expand the program to include additional teams in the near future.

Recently, Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green told The Washington Post that he felt that former college athletes should be retroactively paid for their performance, a move he equated to reparations. The outspoken NBA star cited Hansbrough as a prime example of someone who probably would have made a ton of money during his time in Chapel Hill had the NCAA allowed it.

A UNC standout who won consensus National Player of the Year honors in 2008 and a national championship in 2009, Hansbrough was drafted 13th overall in the ’09 NBA Draft, but his professional career never truly took off. “You think about all the things that he did at North Carolina, you think all the money he made for North Carolina. … He probably would have made more money at North Carolina than he made in the NBA, but yet we’re still living under these slave rules,” Green said.

Now, an opportunity has emerged to set things right. And while UNC is the first athletic department to enter a deal like this one, it will undoubtedly not be the last.

In the meantime, we can’t wait to finally get our hands on an official Mia Hamm Tar Heel jersey.