Virginia Athletics and Cav Futures have announced a partnership that recognizes Cav Futures as the official NIL collective of Virginia sports. The deal was negotiated by Virginia’s multimedia rights holder Playfly Sports and the agreement comes through an association with Virginia Sports Properties.
Name, Image and Likeness has quickly become an integral part of college athletics since the NCAA approved the policy in the summer of 2021, giving athletes compensation for their NIL. Cav Futures is an NIL collective that supports Virginia student athletes in NIL deals These collectives serve as third parties between student athletes and companies – Cav Futures helps student athletes attract deals, negotiate compensation and grow in the community as it pertains to NIL.
Doug Dunkel, Ron Carey and Matt Link are the three founding members of Cav Futures. All three were former Virginia football players, and saw a need for Virginia to keep pace with schools around the country as NIL rapidly expands. The Advisory Board for Cav Futures features former Virginia athletic stars — including the likes of Ralph Sampson, Matt Schaub, Dana Boyle and most recently Kyle Guy. Former Associate Director for the Virginia Athletics Foundation Lo Davis joined Cav Futures as Executive Director to help oversee their vision.
“We’re playing catch up now,” Davis said. “[The creators] found the need to create a collective so that we could do this in a way that fit Virginia.”
The announcement comes at a time when recruiting, the transfer portal and the success of athletic programs as a whole are increasingly dominated by schools’ abilities to provide NIL opportunities. This partnership specifically gives Cav Futures access to Virginia’s brand and marketing assets, which will increase branding, education and opportunities for student athletes here at the University.
“Is it better to make 200 bucks in NIL dollars by tweeting out something?” Davis said. “Or is it better to put you in the room with the right network of people, so that when you come out of school, you have a job paying six figures? And so that's been our approach and mentality, we're building on that.”
Cav Futures joins a list of over 100 official NIL collectives that are university-sponsored in the NCAA.
Athletic Director Carla Williams has praised the announcement and partnership with Cav Futures.
“Cav Futures’ values are consistent with our values and their holistic approach to serving student athletes has already been extremely beneficial,” Williams said. “Cav Futures have already worked with over 65 Virginia student athletes in some form.”
In her words, Virginia Athletics is keen on providing short and long-term opportunities for student athletes. The addition of Cav Futures will give student athletes more concrete opportunities to be compensated for work as well as be educated on how to leverage their NIL value.
“[Cav Futures] strengthens that effort but [also] allows for substantial growth and impact,” Williams said.
The partnership gives Virginia a so-called stamp of approval in the NIL space, while also providing student athletes a centralized group of people at Cav Futures trying to help them capitalize on their NIL. Meanwhile, Cav Futures will receive much more traffic from Virginia student athletes with the partnership and help student athletes secure brand deals and other forms of compensation. Cav Features does not sign players as official Cav Futures representative athletes, but instead does deals on a singular basis.
“What we've found, though, is that as student athletes who are getting opportunities are getting contracts, they're sending them over to us to review,” Davis said. “And that's great.”
Davis believes Cav Futures has the opportunity to play an important role in Virginia Athletics and the journeys of Virginia student athletes going forward, emphasizing the importance and value that every Virginia student athlete has.
“Everyone who comes here and dons the V-sabres, they have value …it’s up to us to figure out what that value is,” Davis said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “So how can we take care of not only that top 1 percent [of athletes] but the other 99 percent?”
Cav Futures emphasizes on their website that while they give Virginia student athletes short-term NIL opportunities, they also are focused on educating and working with student athletes on their brand as a person.
In addition to giving student athletes help and support with NIL, Cav Futures also allows students to directly support Virginia student athletes and contribute directly to their NIL efforts with a subscription service called Cav Club. Fans can subscribe to different tiers that grants them access to student athlete-oriented updates, content and live events.
“This sponsorship with U.Va. will market [Cav Futures] to the masses…it will allow students and donors and fans to interact more closely with the fans,” Davis said.
Beyond athletic success for both players and teams in Charlottesville, Cav Futures and Virginia are focused on NIL’s positive impact on the community through social activism with student athletes.
“We feel like if we can bring student athletes into the room with the right people, there’s going to be value there for them, but also there’s going to be value for the Charlottesville and Virginia community as well,” Davis said.
Additionally, this partnership with Cav Futures does not force or restrict Virginia student athletes from engaging in NIL opportunities with other collectives or groups. However, with Cav Futures as the official face of NIL for Virginia athletics, student athletes now have a Virginia-specific group in their corner.