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Collegiate NIL is the Wild West of sports

Good afternoon innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.


This newsletter and podcast feature stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world.  They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic.  The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is Ewing Kauffman. Kauffman founded Marion Laboratories, a pharmaceutical business, in Kansas City in 1950. By the 1980s, Marion was a billion-dollar business.

He also was an innovator in the business of sports, the subject of a podcast case study on his work in launching the Kansas City Royals Baseball Academy in episode 14, Moneyball… before Moneyball.

In this week’s podcast, I interview Brent Blum, Executive Director of the We Will Collective at Iowa State University, an organization that supports student-athletes through NIL deals and helps them to contribute to the community.


Collegiate athletics is the wild west in the business of sports today, and Brent brings great perspective on today’s landscape, where things may be headed, and efforts to do things in a distinctive way. Whether you're a Cyclone fan or a fan of another team, you’ll enjoy this conversation about innovating in collegiate athletics.


Good Reads





Three Things I Think (I Think)


Brent Blum shared that collegiate athletics needs ‘an adult in the room’ to tame the chaos of the current environment.


1.     I think big money creates big ethical risk. Pick your proverb: Cash is king; money talks; bad money drives out good. The money in collegiate athletics ultimately flows from fan interest. The athletes that create that fan interest were bound to participate financially, but it will take efforts like that at the We Will Collective to keep the money constructive rather than destructive.

2.     I think rules may emerge around NIL, but be wary of regulatory capture. I met Benchmark Capital venture capital investor Bill Gurley in 1999 when he flew to Ames to meet us about investing in my first business, E-Markets. I’ll save the story of what happened to that deal for another day, but I have enjoyed following Bill’s articles and interviews over the years. You can listen to recent presentation he made at the All-In Summit that I think is one of the most interesting talks I’ve heard in a long time. He talks about economist George Stigler’s ideas about regulatory capture. That’s when special interests are prioritized in regulation and regulations end up being a net loss for society at large. He tells great stories about corruption in broadband, Obamacare, COVID testing and more. Rules and regulations about NIL are likely needed, but they should be for the general good of student athletes and collegiate athletics across the country.

3.     I think engaging ISU athletes in community organizations is a shining example of doing things the right way. A member of the Cyclone football team, in my entrepreneurship class this week, described to me and his classmates how special it was to have kids approach him after games and ask for his autograph on a ball or their shirt. I think it’s special that he, and others, take the time to engage with youth, whether a few moments after a football game or as a mentor or helper at a community organization.


Farm to My Table


The picanha cut is a beef cut from the rump area above the butt, where it sits on a thick layer of fat. I’ve enjoyed picanha while traveling in Brazil, which is where the name came from. You can now find it labeled as picanha in many places, or perhaps as top sirloin. I don’t have a Brazil style barbecue set up (yet!), but it works well on the smoker too. I remove most of the fat layer, then reverse sear it by taking it to about 110 degrees at low temperatures then removing it and finishing it a high temperature. The most recent on our table was from Amanda and Knute at Grand View Beef.


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