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Sunday Sit Down: Country Roads Trust GM Stephen Ford

NIL, the opportunities the Trust has created for WVU athletics & more
Published: Jun. 19, 2022 at 10:29 PM EDT
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va (WDTV) - As of July 1st, 2021, collegiate athletes have been allowed to profit off of their name, image and likeness. When this went into affect, WVU did not want to get left behind and that’s where Country Roads Trust came in.

General Manager Stephen Ford joins this week’s Sunday Sit Down to break down NIL, and more specifically, what Country Roads Trust is doing to create NIL opportunities for Mountaineer athletes, and the benefit that it is having and will have in the future, “When it comes to NIL, it attracts more high profile athletes, any prospective student athletes that we have, this is a recruiting tool that Coach Brown, Coach Huggins, even onto Nikki, coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and Randy Mazey, so they can go into these kids home and say hey you know we’ve done “X” amount of dollars here, “X” amount of dollars here, here’s what the players and the potential is for you,” said Ford.

Understanding the ins and outs of NIL is a learning process for everyone, but Ford helps squash some of the more commo misconceptions, “I think a lot of people feel... you’re buying players, you’re buying athletes, that’s so far from it, now you do have some programs where you hear some things here and there, I think that’s where some people get confused, oh yeah we can go out and buy a guy, anyone in the transfer portal or a high school athlete and that’s so far from the truth, a lot of these kids, there gonna be able to profit and where they’re gonna see a lot more money is on the corporate sponsorship side and that’s where my expertise and my background comes in because I can tie them to United Bank or a Diversified Energy, you now and we’re able to put together larger deals for the guys and we’ll aggregate all the money that we’ve raised for different guys, it’s all an educational process for us and for the fans alike but I would say that’s not what we’re here to do, we’re gonna do things right, do things the right way and go by NCAA policy.”

Now with athletes earning money through NIL, there is more incentive to stay in college for another year when they may have otherwise left for the pros, “Being able to provide a revenue stream and an income for the student athletes now, you know we wanna give them the resources and tools to financial literacy so they can manage bank account and then talk to them about investing so that they can have something when they left and then the second part to that is guys that might be graded 5th to 7th round in the NFL or late 2nd round or undrafted, they’ll have an opportunity to make the same if not more money if they stay another year and develop,” said Ford.

For Ford, keeping the student-athletes at the forefront of Country Roads Trust will always be the priority, “It’s all about the student athletes, student athletes first, they’re priority one, two and three, yes we fully back our corporate sponsors, our contributors to the trust but my priority and what wakes me up in the morning is being able to help a student athlete, they’ll always be the priority for me personally, for my staff, but yeah that’s really what it’s all about, it’s the student athletes.”

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