Pitt builds support platform to help athletes with their name, image and likeness branding

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Jun. 30—After Gov. Tom Wolf signed name, image and likeness legislation into the next state budget Wednesday, Pitt has introduced a program designed to help its student-athletes maximize their brand.

Pitt's athletic department announced the formation of Forged Here, a program that will equip Pitt student-athletes with knowledge and resources to navigate previously uncharted NIL territory.

Under the guidelines included in the state budget, college athletes may be compensated for activities such as endorsements or autograph signings without losing eligibility. They may also receive royalty payments from the sales of jerseys, video games and trading cards with their names, images or likenesses. There are some limitations. Athletes may not, for example, advertise adult entertainment, alcohol or tobacco.

The legislation and guidelines are in line with the NCAA's board of directors decision Wednesday to suspend its rules prohibiting athletes from selling their NIL rights.

Forged Here will support Pitt student-athletes by leveraging partnerships with campus counterparts and INFLCR, a national company that specializes in brand-building. INFLCR assists college athletic departments in areas of content, compliance and recruiting that eventually could lead to NIL commercial activities. INFLCR also helps athletes manage and monitor those activities.

"Coach (Jeff) Capel and Pitt men's basketball were some of the first to lean into INFLCR's NIL vision in 2020, and we couldn't be more excited to work with them in rolling out their new NIL programming," INFLCR CEO Jim Cavale said in a statement.

Forged Here will focus on branding, business education, financial literacy, personal wealth management, entrepreneurship and social media proficiency, Pitt athletics said in a news release.

"As it relates to providing our student-athletes with the most extraordinary experience at Pitt, our goal is to be progressive, innovative and helpful in every aspect of their student-athlete experience and the world of name, image and likeness is no different," Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke said in a statement. "We look forward to helping our student-athletes learn more about this topic and build a transparent relationship with them and their families."

Forged Here will partner with several on-campus organizations, including the Cathy and John Pelusi Family Life Skills Program, the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Center for Branding at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

"Our goal as coaches is to provide our student-athletes with the finest support, opportunities and experiences," Pitt football coach Pat Narduzzi said. "Today's announcement regarding our university's approach to Name, Image and Likeness reflects that.

"Our student-athletes work tremendously hard. They deserve to fully benefit from their efforts. We are fortunate to have some outstanding support systems already in place at Pitt.

"When you combine those with our new NIL partnerships, especially in a thriving city like Pittsburgh, our student-athletes will be very well positioned to maximize their opportunities as we enter this new era."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@triblive.com or via Twitter .