UConn’s athletes will soon have a new avenue to earn income from their name, image and likeness.
“We were thinking, ‘where was UConn?’” said Jonathan Greenblatt, one of several UConn grads behind “Bleeding Blue For Good,” a not-for-profit collective aimed at creating opportunities for athletes in various sports.
“There was one collective, but there wasn’t one UConn Nation was rallying around yet. For our population, we’re not going to be doing what some other schools do, but NIL is here. I can be as old school as I want, but the fact was, it’s here. Our feeling was, if the supporters didn’t do something to support the athletes, ultimately we could lose the competitive edge, and we want UConn’s athletes to have the same opportunities as athletes at the schools we compete against.”
Over the course of several months, Greenblatt and John Malfettone, both 1977 grads who have been on the board of the UConn Foundation, former women’s basketball player Kalana Greene, former football player Rasool Ahmed and former Foundation board member Michael Cantor formed the new collective. Ashley Battle, two-time national champ in women’s basketball, will serve as Bleeding Blue For Good’s executive director.
“My vision is really being here to support the athletes and seeing how far we can take this,” Battle said. “I think the sky’s the limit, really, on how much we are able to imagine and how much we can do with the vision and imagination.”
Chris Schoemann, who has worked in the NCAA compliance field for 30 years and is now with FirstTeam Sports Consulting, has been retained to help with strategy and compliance services. Bleeding Blue for Good has gained non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation status from the IRS, which will allow contributions to the collective to be tax deductible.
As a model for its events, the collective staged a basketball clinic in September with 10 men’s players at the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport for two hours, free for 110 kids ages 6 to 12.
“They were taught skills, but more importantly, they saw the role models they watch on TV,” Malfettone said, “because they did spend time talking to them. Many of the athletes came from a similar background, so for them to hear from them and see that they’ve been successful and are in college, it was eye opening for them.”
The players were compensated, and a donation was made to the Cardinal Shehan Center.
“So that’s going to be our typical event,” Malfettone said. “Doing something for charity and then compensating athletes for their work.”
Eventually, Bleeding Blue For Good hopes to stage one such event per month.
“We will raise money to compensate athletes for doing things, preferably team oriented events,” Greenblatt said, “not so much individuals, though that’s not to say there won’t ever be exceptions, but our focus is on team to do things, for example, like putting on a basketball clinic in an inner-city center that would be free for the kids, or maybe speaking at organizations where young kids would be motivated by what they hear.”
There are no set fundraising goals, but some money has been raised. The board members are anticipating changes in NIL regulations in the coming years, and will have to adapt and evolve. The goal is for UConn to keep up with its Big East competitors in the NIL field.
In September, UConn launched an NIL marketplace through its partnership with Opendorse. Last May, UConn grad and social media influencer Marc D’Amelio launched a collective to help UConn athletes grow their personal brands and social media following.
“Bleeding Blue for Good will serve as an incredible opportunity for student athletes in the realm of NIL,” said David Benedict, UConn’s AD. “The NIL landscape is here to stay, and it will be critical moving forward that UConn Nation understands its importance and supports the efforts of Bleeding Blue for Good to ensure that we continue to define ourselves as a leader in NIL and Intercollegiate Athletics. We could not be more thankful to have a trusted group of alumni step up to the plate to broaden the avenue of opportunities available to our student athletes.”