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Andre Agassi helping fund new NIL program for UNLV athletes

The Andre Agassi Foundation for Education is helping fund a third-party name, image and likeness program to financially benefit UNLV athletes.

Bill Paulos, a longtime Las Vegas business executive and UNLV men’s basketball booster, chairs the program called “Friends of UNILV.”

Blueprint Sports, founded in 2020 in Las Vegas with Agassi’s financial backing, oversees the NIL program. Agassi’s contribution was not disclosed.

“The ability for Blueprint to work alongside Bill Paulos and the rest of the leadership for Friends of UNILV will bring equity and parity to student-athletes of all sports at UNLV,” the tennis Hall of Famer and Las Vegas native said in a statement. “These student-athletes have worked tirelessly throughout their career to become a member of a Division I team, and I am excited to be a part of helping them learn about business and life with their personal brands.”

Paulos said more than $150,000 has been raised since the program began in October, with more than $80,000 having been distributed to athletes through deals with businesses and nonprofit organizations. A new website will go online next week that will help connect athletes with business opportunities.

Nevada law doesn’t allow programs such as “Friends of UNILV” to coordinate with UNLV to establish NIL deals, though a state committee has been established to study the issue. Each state has its own set of laws regarding NIL, which has become a key recruiting tool in college sports.

“We’re working with Blueprint to make sure that we’re able to raise the funds necessary to show that UNLV is serious about NIL,” Paulos said. “Whether we like it or not, one of the first questions a recruit asks is not how the Mendenhall Center is anymore, it’s now, ‘OK, how much did (basketball star Bryce) Hamilton make last year?’”

Blueprint’s role is to make sure all the procedures are followed. If an athlete agrees to a deal, such as an appearance at a charity event, that money is placed into escrow until the person fulfills the obligation.

Athletes also have 20 percent deducted for federal income taxes, and they are educated on financial responsibilities.

“Every contract we do, they make sure passes the smell test,” Paulos said.

Blueprint is moving quickly into the NIL game on a national scale. The company has deals with Arizona, Gonzaga, UNR and Montana State as well as Tennessee’s baseball program.

Blueprint chairman Cisco Aguilar said four more agreements are in the process of being finalized, and another nine schools are expected to sign with the company.

“(Athletes) put their heart and soul into these sports,” Aguilar said. “They need to be compensated for some level of engagement because it’s expensive to train. The quality of the food that is critical to their success costs money, and if we can help alleviate some of these stresses, they’re going to be better performers on the court or on the field.”

Aguilar said Agassi wants to empower college athletes by providing “proper support (so) they would be able to accomplish the dream that they’re setting out to do.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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