DAVID TEEL Richmond Times-Dispatch
As an aspiring college basketball player raised near Raleigh, NC, Kadin Shedrick was keenly aware of the sport’s social and economic influence, especially in ACC country.
He saw Duke, North Carolina and Virginia win national championships in a five-season stretch from 2015-19. He saw players such as Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, UNC’s Brice Johnson and UVa’s Kyle Guy celebrate those titles and generate untold revenue for their schools and the NCAA.
In November 2018, just as Virginia began its redemptive championship journey, Shedrick committed to play for the Cavaliers.
“I always thought growing up that college athletes deserved to receive some sort of compensation,” Shedrick said, “considering the NCAA’s a billion-dollar corporation and most of the money they make is off us. But I didn’t think there would be change while I was in school.”
The change occurred last July 1 when the NCAA, coerced by the courts, ended decades of resistance and allowed college athletes to monetize their names, images and likenesses.
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Four months later, Shedrick and teammates Reece Beekman and Jayden Gardner partnered with Charlottesville-based Hook Sports Marketing to explore those prospects.
“I remember early in the NIL process it was hard for us to find deals,” Shedrick said. “We’d have to reach out to places [on our own]. But a marketing team … go out and find deals for us and present them to us makes it a lot easier. It’s one less thing we have to do. We just focus on basketball and school like we’re supposed to and then when an opportunity arises, they can bring it to us.”
Indeed, while marquee athletes such as North Carolina basketball forward Armando Bacot, Texas running back Bijan Robinson and Miami basketball guard Nigel Pack bask in six-figure NIL incomes — kudos to Robinson for leveraging his speed into a Lamborghini — Shedrick and thousands of his peers learned that most NIL deals are modest, and even then, don’t magically surface.
Hook Sports unearths them and plays matchmaker.
Parlaying their extensive professional experiences and UVa connections, friends Todd Goodale and Chip Royer opened their venture shortly after NIL compensation became law last summer. Goodale is the director of sports wellness at the Boar’s Head Resort and a former senior associate athletic director at Virginia; Royer is the founding partner of a Charlottesville law firm and has worked extensively in collegiate licensing.
Goodale and Royer are Virginia graduates and have aligned with 21 current Cavaliers across 10 sports. Moreover, they have entered representation partnerships with Caric Sports on behalf of quarterback Brennan Armstrong, and with Boras Marketing on behalf of baseball players Kyle Teel, Jake Gelof and Nate Savino.
Hook’s team also includes former Cavaliers basketball player Austin Katstra and Kevin Thurman, who previously worked as the athletic department’s director of marketing and social media.
Unlike a collective, Hook Sports does not pool money from fans, boosters and businesses and then distribute the funds to athletes in exchange for endorsements. Instead, the firm markets its athletes to businesses and the community to discover fits for brand partnerships, sports clinics and other appearances.
“Could a student-athlete do this on their own? Absolutely,” Goodale said. “But they don’t have the connections in the business community. Nor do they have the time. They just don’t have it, between class and practice and maybe trying to have somewhat of a social life. …
“What’s become clear to us, from the student-athletes we represent, is that they need help, they want help and they appreciate the guidance and the guidance that we’re able to provide as representatives.”
Among the endorsement deals Hook Sports has brokered: Shedrick and teammate Reece Beekman cut a television commercial for Blue Ridge Bank; Matt Moore, the leading scorer in UVa men’s lacrosse history, appeared in YouTube videos promoting Warrior equipment; All-ACC golfer Amanda Sambach, women’s soccer forward Cam Lexow and All-America swimmer Matthew Brownstead were among 10 Virginia athletes who created dishes for a month-long Multiverse Kitchens promotion.
“Been fun to watch, quite frankly, to see some of our student-athletes and their entrepreneurial spirit, take the bull by the horns [and] make something where there was nothing,” Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said.
Then there were the appearances and clinics, which the athletes and Hook Sports folks found the most rewarding. The events coupled the athletes with the Charlottesville community, and even fans from a distance.
As cool as Shedrick found the Blue Ridge commercial shoot inside the Boar’s Head gym, he said his favorite aspect of NIL has been connecting with youth basketball players.
Men’s basketball is UVa’s showcase program, and with an eye toward next season, Hook Sports has formed the 4819 club, named to commemorate the date of the Cavaliers’ national championship victory over Texas Tech. Different levels of membership offer fans the chance to attend meet-the-team functions, private group dinners and clinics.
“The interactions that the tennis and the basketball players have had with the youth are awesome,” Goodale said. “Are they getting compensated? Yes. But they absolutely love doing it. They’re not just showing up to collect a check. They’re enjoying interacting with the youth, and they’re getting compensated for it, which if you think about it, they should have been all along.”
Royer and Goodale were especially moved by a body image seminar they staged that featured All-America soccer player Diana Ordonez, who debuted for Mexico’s national team this spring. A UVa alum in Florida whose daughter is battling an eating disorder requested a video of the event, and Ordonez went above and beyond by sending a personal video along with a signed jersey and ball.
“I don’t know if that could have been pulled off before NIL came around,” Royer said. “If all of this work was just a way to touch that one individual to help her with something really, really meaningful in her life … then we have done everything that we could do, and the rest is gravy.”
Group licensing absolutely could not have happened pre-NIL. But the fair market now permits athletes and schools to share profits from the sale of branded, athlete-specific apparel.
Hook Sports and UVa partnered on such a venture.
“The co-branded apparel is where everybody really wins,” Goodale said. “To me, that’s at the core of what this is becoming and should be all about because the student-athlete name, image and likeness clearly is being used. The school wins because they’re still getting their licensing fee off new apparel and merchandise, and … now the fan can feel more connected to their favorite student-athlete.”
NIL income creates tax implications for athletes, and Hook Sports offers clients tax and accounting services. Hook’s standard contract is accessible online and calls for athletes to keep their first $1,000 in NIL income, while HSM takes a 10% cut thereafter.
The firm also acts as a liaison with the UVa athletic department’s compliance staff. The problem there is, with no federal standards, varying state laws and an NCAA neutered by the courts, no one is exactly sure what the NIL rules are.
“We know the Wild West was eventually settled,” Royer said. “A sheriff came to town, and there were states and governments, and we’re very much looking forward to the day where there’s more reliable policing and clear instruction. Part of our job right now is to do guesswork and to just try and be really, really good at it. …
“It’s really been an interesting and transformational thing. … I think it’s a fascinating area that we’re just now opening the doors to.”
Greg Madia of The Daily Progress contributed to this report.