Procter & Gamble alum launches site to crowdfund booster payments for NCAA recruits
Boosters paying recruits is ordinarily a big no-no under NCAA rules. But a new website from Procter & Gamble Co. alum Pablo Arellano Jr. would crowdsource booster bids in a way that he says circumvents those rules.
MVNM.com, which stands for Most Valuable New Member, will let people place bids on recruits to play for specific schools. The aggregated money will be held in a trust managed by JPMorgan Chase until the student-athletes enroll and then end their eligibility.
Arellano, a former P&G assistant brand manager who’s also launched other digital startups, including a peer-to-peer 3-D printing business, says he’s been in talks with P&G executives about venture backing for MVNM but has no commitment yet.
The crowdfunding site launches officially on Wednesday–early national signing day for letters of intent for 2022 recruits. It begins in beta, listing 10 top football recruits for the 2022 class. Ultimately, Arellano plans to expand to more recruits and to basketball.
Ordinarily, it’s an NCAA violation for alumni or other boosters to contact or offer money to recruits. Arellano says MVNM gets around this because the bids are held by his company in a trust until players complete their eligibility. MVNM will have no contact with the student-athletes until they’ve completed their eligibility, at which point they can claim funds they’re eligible for. But students–or anyone–will be able to check the site to monitor the bidding.
Bidders whose favored recruits go to a college they didn’t bid for will get refunds, less a service fee, which is how MVNM will make its money. Arellano says he’s still working though contingencies, such as what happens if a player transfers, but says he’s been assured by his lawyers that MVNM’s process will comply with NCAA rules.
Mit Winter, a sports law attorney with the Kansas City, Missouri, firm Kennyhertz Perry, has his doubts. Any recruit who agreed to this arrangement would be ineligible to play at an NCAA school under a bylaw that makes an individual ineligible if he or she “accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation,” Winter says.
Even pending rules to allow NCAA athletes to accept payment for use of their likeness and image stipulate that such payments must come from third parties other than boosters or alumni, he says.
“Accepts” may be the salient term. MVNM won't communicate directly with players until after they end their amateur eligibility, Arellano says, so they won’t have accepted any offers, over which they have no control anyway. Ultimately payments will come from MVNM without identifying the funders.
MVNM clearly could give big-spending boosters a way to lure top recruits to schools. But, Arellano, who was a high-school soccer star whose scholarship got yanked after a rare disease knotted the veins behind his knees, says his goal is to get student athletes a more equitable slice of the billions spent on college sports.
“Nothing is guaranteed for these students,” Arellano says. “They can get injured, as they often have, and they leave with nothing, or a criminal justice degree that they don’t know what to do with because their focus was on being an athlete.”