Georgia athletics take giant NIL step with launch of Classic City Collective

Georgia football-2022 season-success
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart leads his team onto the field at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. (Curtis Compton/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

ATHENS — Georgia football took a giant step into the future via the so-called “Classic City Collective,” which serves to funnel NIL money to athletes, among other things.

Programs across the country have struggled to find ways — within NCAA rules — to ensure student-athletes get maximum opportunities for NIL deals.

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While NIL deals can’t be used as a direct inducement to recruiting or luring transfers, it’s become clear players do take financial gain into account when choosing their school.

Schools, by many interpretations, are not allowed to be directly involved in the NIL process, and therein lies the challenge.

Still, athletic programs at Tennessee, Auburn, South Carolina and Kentucky already have collectives programs in place their fans can support.

It was time for Georgia to keep up.

It’s complicated at this stage to be sure, with fluid rules and a fragmented market.

It’s understandable why many fans and followers struggle to wrap their brains around what’s happening to collegiate sports when administrators and compliance officers are still sorting through different interpretations.

RELATED: NIL chatter, Lane Kiffin wisecrack put Jimbo Fisher in a tizzy

Per the official release on Classic City Collective, the goal for Georgia’s group is “to be the nation’s foremost supporter-funded NIL facilitation platform to position Georgia athletics and athletes from all 21 spots for sustained success.”

Former UGA compliance officer Matt Hibbs will serve as CEO of Classic City Collective, fully endorsed by Kirby Smart and athletic director Josh Brooks.

One way to look at the Classic City Collective approach is to consider it three-pronged:

1. Businesses, large and small, can access the Classic City Collective online marketplace through Icon Source, which has UGA athletes registered.

The businesses can reach out directly to the student-athletes with offers.

Or, they can take a broader approach, and pitch ideas and concepts to see which athletes might be interested.

2. Donors, who do not have an NIL business to align with, can donate money to the fund.

3. The “DGD” portion enables people to donate money to a charity fund created by Georgia players Owen Condon, Stetson Bennett, John FitzPatrick and Payne Walker and former player John Staton IV when the NIL rules were passed.

The players have used their Name Image Likeness to raise $108,000 for their choice of charities, which include the American Brain Tumor Association, the Boys & Girls Club of America, the “Happy Feat” day program and summer camp for children with special needs and disabilities, the ALS Association and Hillinski’s Hope, which benefits suicide awareness.

The DGD fund is set up as a 501 (c) (3) fund.

Hibbs stated that:

“We are excited to work alongside Georgia’s loyal supporters, local businesses, alumni and fans to provide a resource that cuts through the complexities of NIL and provides an avenue for Dawg Nation to confidently support and connect with UGA athletes. We see an incredible opportunity to enrich, enhance and empower the lives of Georgia athletes,”

Georgia athletics only recently caught up in the facilities arms race, via its new $80 million building.

Now, it seems the UGA athletics community has seen to it the school will stay at the forefront of pivotal NIL dealings that will benefit current athletes, thereby showing prospects how competitive Georgia can be in that arena.

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