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How Horns with Heart plans to pay Texas offensive linemen $50K through a NIL deal

Horns with Heart Co-Founder and President Rob Blair joins Yahoo Finance to discuss what his non-profit organization is doing to provide $50,000 annually to University of Texas offensive linemen.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: We want to turn our attention to the latest developments in helping college athletes capitalize on their true value. And you might have heard about a program that's going to wind up through charitable venues paying college athletes, specifically Texas offensive linemen, $50,000 a year. To explain how this works and why it's in the interest of the students-- and of course, there are critics about this-- we have Rob Blair, Horns with Heart Co-Founder and President, along with our sports guru Josh Schafer.

First, let me start with you, Rob. Very first question for you. Where did you come up with the idea to do it? Because essentially, everyone on the team is going to be rewarded for their ability now, right?

ROB BLAIR: You know, that's definitely our goal not just for their ability, but for their name, image, and their likeness. We think, you know, especially at the University of Texas in Austin, and really only having the one professional sports team that, you know, these guys are local celebrities. And being able to put that name, image, and likeness, you know, rule into effect is crucial for what we're aiming to do in making a positive impact in our community.

JOSH SCHAFER: So, Rob, my understanding is the Texas offensive linemen here are going to be doing charitable acts and kind of promoting charities in order to kind of earn their keep in this part of the thing, right? How does that work? What exactly are they going to be doing? And if you guys to talk to any charities yet about partnering with them? What's that going to look like?

ROB BLAIR: Yeah, absolutely. That's our goal. You know, we've talked to many charities. But something that's really kind of near and dear to our hearts is doing what's important for the offensive line that we're going to be sponsoring. You know, what causes are near and dear to their heart? Whether it be in the Austin, local Austin community or their communities that they grew up in.

You know, what we want to do is we want to make a positive impact, and we want to help out these charities, you know. So they'll be expected to make charitable appearances, whether that be, say for instance, as an example, we partner with Habitat for Humanity. I mean, who wouldn't want to-- you know, 14 big offensive linemen building the house, you know, building the house for them. So, you know, it'll all be going back to the community, as well as there will be financial donations from Horns to the Heart to the charitable organizations that we partner with, as well.

JOSH SCHAFER: Have you guys talked to any of the offensive linemen on the Texas program yet? And how is the communication going to work between Horns with Heart and the team?

ROB BLAIR: Yeah, so we're able to talk with all the offensive linemen. Per NIL rules, we're allowed to speak to them in the same manner as any kind of ad agency would be able to talk to a contract employee. It's kind of how that relationship works. So we've talked to a majority of them. You know, obviously, it's a very big positive for them. You know, a lot of people think with these athletes that they see the glitz, the glamor. They see what happens on Saturday. But they're putting in the blood, sweat, and tears more often than you'd think.

And, you know, being able to make a difference where-- you know, these guys are busy at practice. They don't have time to go out and get a second job. And, you know, just because, you know, everybody sees NFL and now, with the NIL rules, the players are getting paid, you know, they think that they're making all this kind of money. But in reality, they really did not make anything on the NIL last year. So being able to do something, this and help, you know, effect change for them, as well as their family, as well as giving back and giving that positive aspect to the community, it's a win-win-win for everybody.

EMILY MCCORMICK: Rob, this is Emily here. What precedent do you think this program sets for college athletics? Or what precedent would you want this to set?

ROB BLAIR: You know what? The second part of your question was perfect. What precedent do we want it to set? You know, we hope this changes everything. You know being able to-- you know, for my opinion, this is one of the first NIL deals that's not completely self-serving.

You know, all of our members of the board were working entirely pro bono. We're not receiving a single dime. All of the money that's donated to us is going directly to the charity charities, as well as the athletes themselves. And we hope that's boilerplate across NIL landscape.

You know, even if A&M goes out and copies our idea tomorrow, we'll be congratulating them, because that means they're going to be hopefully doing a positive impact in their community instead of what a lot of people thought NIL was going to be, which was kids marketing T-shirts and, you know, going on podcasts and, you know, tweeting stuff out. You know, this is an actual positive effect. And, you know, if we can make a 1% difference in making the world a better place through college athletics, I mean, that's perfect. That's exactly what the world needs I think.

JOSH SCHAFER: Rob as a donor yourself and someone that's interested in college athletics donations, do you think this might shift the paradigm of where donors look to give back to the athletics department instead of maybe going through the front door and giving directly to the university? Do you think we're going to see more people looking to do something like this?

ROB BLAIR: You know, it's tough to answer that because it really depends on the donor themselves and what they're passionate about, you know. Everybody has a kind of a stereotype of the big money donor, especially the Texas big money donor, thinking, oh, they only care about football. But, you know, women's sports are extremely a big passion of ours that we're looking to target in the near future.

And, you know, it really just depends on what you're looking for. You know, the money will always be there depending on what you want to get involved in. And really it's all about effecting change. And wherever that donor wants to effect change, you know, we want to just be at least one avenue for that.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Rob, I think a lot of people applaud the way you have set this up. What would you say to people who say, look, you could do this in a more equitable way and still get the beneficial results. Have one NCAA large donor pool into which everybody could donate, and then you distribute to all of the athletes across the country. Why not do it that way?

ROB BLAIR: You know what? That sounds great, you know, kind of pie in the sky. We would love something like that. You know, you've already kind of started seeing that happen. Texas themselves, and I believe Ole Miss is the other one, once the rule passes, the universities themselves are able to offer-- I believe it's up to $6,000 per athlete. And the requirement is, I think, Ole Miss is to just be eligible.

So you're already seeing kind of things work that way. And I think that there should be-- you know, I think one big pie is great, but it's also, you know, wouldn't necessarily be fair to, I would say, the larger schools that have a little more money. That kind of gets you back to where we were before the NIL. If everybody's taking an even slice, you know, some of these people deserve a little bit bigger.

JOSH SCHAFER: And I guess kind of along those lines, I know you guys want to expand into all the sports at Texas, if I'm correct on that. How do you think that will look? And are the slices of pie going to be different depending on the sport and the position and that sort of thing?

ROB BLAIR: Of course. And a lot of that's-- like I mentioned about donors discretion, you know, the donors that-- where they want the money to go in terms of charities, as well as the athletes, that's where we're going to go. We're going to provide the conduit for that to be able to happen.

You know, we'll put together programs ourselves, and we'll actively be fundraising programs that we want. But if somebody is listening right now and really is passionate about the rowing team in Texas, contact us at hornswithheart.org, and we can absolutely make that happen.

JOSH SCHAFER: And, Rob, how does this work from a recruiting standpoint? Because I know it's not supposed to work from a recruiting standpoint due to the laws. So how have you guys sort of navigated that? And what's the strategy there?

ROB BLAIR: That's one of the pillars of the NIL law, and we have no interest in affecting any recruitments or being involved in any recruitments. Honestly, it's-- all that is outside noise to us. It's all secondary stuff. We don't pay attention to it. You know, we're not active in any kind of recruiting capacity. Could that be an intended effect? It's not an intended effect for us.