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Illinois alums launch NIL nonprofit to promote student-athletes

‘Illini helping Illini,’ the group said.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A group of University of Illinois alumni professional leaders announced Thursday the creation of a new nonprofit to help promote student-athletes.

According to a news release, Illini Guardians was “built to foster impactful and positive relationships between Fighting Illini student-athletes and the Illinois community.”

“Inspired by the recent name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation, the organization’s leadership includes longstanding supports of University of Illinois athletics and alumni relations,” the release said.

Essentially, the new group will help student-athletes at Illinois better utilize the new NIL rules, as well as give them access to “far-reaching access to a professional network.”

You can learn more about the new NIL rules on the NCAA’s website.

Organizers said they chose to remain as a non-profit, instead of a for-profit NIL group, to remove the “financial gain as a business motivation.”

The group said it has already gained the support of Illini greats Kendall Gill, Dana Howard and Ayo Dosunmu.

“The world of NIL has opened dynamic and exciting opportunities for student athletes to market their individual name, image, likeness and voice,” Gill told the Guardians’ website. “This has created an unprecedented need for a trusted liaison group to raise NIL funds and match opportunities for students and the Illini Nation with integrity and innovation that will keep our athletic programs among the country’s elite. Illini Guardians is exactly such a group.”

Since the NIL rules went into effect last July, we have already seen far-reaching effects among Illini athletes, most notably basketball players.

Trent Frazier is among those who have signed deals with several companies, which he often promotes on his Instagram page. But most Illini fans remember when Kofi Cockburn was suspended at the start of the season for partaking in such actions before the rules were in place.

Since the group literally just announced its launch on Thursday, we’re still learning more about the work that is being done by it, but the Guardians offer one example on its website of how they’re planning to connect athletes and with opportunities. The site said Tracy Abrams founded Chi-Positive-Impact, a Chicago organization working with Chicago public grade schools, after graduating. Organizers said contributions will help the Guardians create an “ongoing series of NIL contracts” to allow athletes to make personal appearances at such events.

Again, that’s just one example, but it seems like a very good start for both the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the athletes — although, it should be noted the new group has no connection to DIA. The more opportunities student-athletes get to promote themselves (and get paid in the process), the better the pitch for coaches trying to lure them to Illinois. Seeing Illinois alums attempt to lead the way in this new NIL world, just seven months after it was launched, is a sight to behold.

People can support their efforts by donating money, buying selected merchandise, or make payments via Venmo, PayPal and Shopify. Checks can also be sent (and all that information is in the release on their tweet that is linked above).

You can learn more about Illini Guardians on its website.