Name, image and likeness deals (NIL) have swarmed college athletics since its adoption in July 2021. While universities with large athletic donors like Alabama, Texas and Ohio State have capitalized on NIL deals with their student athletes, schools like UTEP sometimes fall behind due to the lack of resources.

That could suddenly change for UTEP men's basketball.

On Tuesday, Bob Moore of El Paso Matters reported that El Paso business leaders Miguel Fernández and Josh Hunt had started Miner Collective, a nonprofit that will raise money for NIL deals.

According to the non-profit, their goal is to keep the UTEP men's basketball program "strong and competitive in the world of college sports by providing open, transparent, and legal income to players for use of their (NIL) in promotional or charitable events in the community."  This line of income is set up for current and future men's basketball players that are on scholarship. The Miner Collective will solicit funds and disperse them to men's basketball scholarship players that choose to participate.

Fans and supporters of UTEP men's basketball are encouraged by The Miner Collective to donate at all levels, with no maximum or minimum amount of giving. For business owners wishing to support, the Miner Collective will help when it comes to collaborating for brand promotion or engagement opportunities with basketball players. The foundation's website is expected to officially launch in the near future as well.

The concept of a NIL collective is widely used in college athletics and is starting to pop up in Conference USA. UTEP needs to stay up to date with its competition.

UAB has The Southside Solution, an NIL collective aimed to help the football and the men's basketball teams. No doubt this was instrumental in their basketball team's efforts to retain standout Jordan Walker and recruit LSU transfer Eric Gaines. UTSA's NIL collective is Runners Rising, which allows people to donate to the sport of their choice.

One source suggested to 600 ESPN El Paso that NIL deals for high-caliber players in mid major basketball could range between $10,000 to $50,000 per player. As far as high major basketball and the Power 5 ranks? We've seen deals like North Carolina's Armando Bacot receiving “past half a million,” according to a report by Forbes.

While there is nothing set in stone as far as dollar amounts per player at UTEP, Hunt says The Miner Collective will be competitive compared to other mid major schools.

"We're committed to giving funding to each existing scholarship men's basketball player and we're also wanting to be completely competitive with the upper echelon of Conference USA, Mountain West schools and other schools that have been recently part of Conference USA," said Hunt. "Being competitive in the mid major range of basketball programs is the initial focus. Individual details, still too early to say. We're focused on being competitive to be supportive of the program."

In the past, UTEP basketball has done small NIL deals. Former guard Souley Boum developed t-shirts under his "Buckets for Sale" alias. Former forward Tydus Verhoeven capitalized on a few paid engagement appearances last year. But none of these gave the athlete a consistent stream of income as the Miner Collective aims to do.

UTEP head coach Joe Golding must be ecstatic about The Miner Collective. Not only could this give the team leverage when it comes to attracting top-level talent to come to El Paso, but this could also help the team retain current players with financial incentives.

The Miner Collective was founded by Fernandez and Hunt this year. Fernandez is the CEO of Flō Networks and a UTEP graduate. Both of them serve on The Miner Collective Board of Directors, along with Gene Wolf, who is a managing partner at Kemp Smith Law Firm.

"We can make the biggest impact there (men's basketball)," said Hunt, who is the Executive Vice President and Director of Hunt Companies, Inc. "There's a lot of history there. There's fewer players. We think we can make the biggest community impact there. Myself, Miguel and others have always been focused on how to make this region and community as globally competitive as we can. There's a lot of things that go into that. Having a good quality of life is one of those and having entertainment options is part of it that goes into the equation of quality of life for many people. I think having a competitive men's basketball program is a small piece in having a competitive quality of life in the region."

As of now, men's basketball is the only incentive that is being explored through The Miner Collective.

"Our focus initially is men's basketball," said Hunt. "That doesn't mean that things can't change. We think we can get this started and make the biggest impact initially focused on men's basketball and take it from there. Obviously we will have a vehicle in place if a need came down the road to go to other sports, but that isn't our initial focus."

"We're supportive of other NIL collectives that might get started here. We're not doing this because of us. We're doing this for the men's basketball program and the community. People want to be supportive of other sports, we're fully supportive of that as well."

- Josh Hunt, Miner Collective Board Member/Founder

More on NIL 

After the Supreme Court's ruling hit in 2021, student-athletes across the country can be legally paid for using their name, image and likeness. This is not to be used directly in recruiting efforts or as a "pay-for-play" incentive. Instead, this is a way for players to capitalize on their name, image and likeness by profiting directly.

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