Cars, apartments and ‘six-figure packages’: Inside the new, money-fueled frontier of the college football arms race

By David Ubben Feb 15, 2022 164
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In just more than seven months since being introduced to college sports, name, image and likeness has morphed into a recruiting superweapon.

And in the never-ending arms race of college football, those who outfit themselves best are bound to prosper.

“If you would have asked us four to five months ago, we might have said we want to try and raise $3 (million), $4 (million), $5 million annually. Now, the goal is $25 million annually. Or more. And we think that goal is absolutely attainable,” said Hunter Baddour, president and co-founder of Spyre Sports, a Tennessee-centric college sports collective. “We’ll have to work hard, which we will. If this is how the game is played, then game on.”

Late in the 2022 recruiting season, it became clear that this was precisely how the game was being played, and as coaches turn the page to the Class of 2023, the money and impact collectives such as Spyre Sports can have are only growing.

“We’re prepared to invest a substantial amount of resources into the 2023 recruiting class,” Baddour said. “When you add all that together, it’s well into the seven-figure category.”

Baddour and CEO James Clawson co-founded Spyre Sports in 2020 and quickly found fertile ground in name, image and likeness. It has become one of the sport’s most organized and advanced collectives, a new catch-all term in college sports for groups of fans with varying budgets set aside to help aid players in monetizing their name, image and likeness. Money is pooled from a variety of sources and distributed to players according to their value, while players are responsible for providing deliverables such as event appearances, social media posts or autographs.