Site allows for athlete donations

ByDarren Rovell via ESPN logo
Monday, March 9, 2015

There might be another way to keep your favorite college players in school: Pay them to stay.

New crowdfunding site FanAngel will allow fans, among other things, to pay college athletes to stay in school through donations that are given to the athlete when his or her eligibility expires.

"If you wanted Marcus Mariota to stay in school for his senior year, you could give $20," said Shawn Fojtik, who dreamed up the site after finding out there wasn't a way for Chicago Bears fans to give Brian Urlacher the money he wanted to play a final season at the salary he desired.

Fojtik said that when a fan commits a pledge to an athlete, that money is immediately taken out of the account. Eighty percent of the money will be held for that athlete if that athlete does choose to stay in school, 10 percent will be given to that athlete's teammates, and 10 percent will be earmarked for charity and scholarship funds. The money is given to the athlete when that athlete's eligibility expires.

FanAngel, Fojtik said, takes a 9 percent fee for organizing the transaction. If the athlete does not stay in school, the money will be refunded.

In November, the NCAA issued guidance to prospective crowdfunding sites saying that college athletes' names could not be used to promote such sites and would compromise that athlete's eligibility. The NCAA argued while defending its position in the Ed O'Bannon case that accepting money that is put in escrow still counts as accepting money at the time an athlete accepts it.

But Fojtik said his site steers clear of all NCAA guidelines.

"There's no acceptance on the athlete's part, and we aren't specifically promoting any athletes," he said. "We are using their name as anyone would as part of fair use."

Fojtik acknowledged that he met with the NCAA and said he incorporated some of the ideas from that discussion, but the organization is not supportive of the model.

"We have a lot in common with them," Fojtik said. "We want the same thing as them -- for kids to stay in school, to end the one-and-dones or the 'two-and-throughs.' But we aren't a constituent of theirs, so we're not subject to their rules."

Fojtik said there is no way for athletes to contact his company or crowdfund on their own through his site. In fact, Fojtik doesn't want to talk to anyone who has any connection with the athlete until it's time to pay out the money.

Since fans are donating their money, instead of investing, FanAngel has established its business category as broadcast media with the Internal Revenue Service. All donation amounts to specific athletes will be made public, though some can choose to give anonymously.

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