Florida gym chain owner offers $500-a-month endorsement deals to ALL 90 University of Miami football players as college boosters take advantage of new NCAA sponsorship rules

 The owner of a chain of Florida gyms is offering to pay $6,000 in endorsement money to all 90 scholarship players on the University of Miami football team in a move that could significantly impact the future of recruiting in college athletics.

In total, America Top Team gyms owner Dan Lambert is proposing to pay up to $540,000 for Hurricanes players to promote his business on social media and through public appearances. He is a former University of Miami student who says the offer is partly-motivated by his love of his old college, and desire for its team to do well. 

As of Wednesday, no players had publicly accepted the chance to make $500 a month for the next year, but that could change after they've had the chance to discuss the offer with their own families and representatives.

Half a million dollars may seem pricey for endorsements from relatively unknown players, most of whom aren't NFL prospects, but Lambert is a well-known Miami fan who is hoping to 'improve the reputation of the school and the team,' he told ESPN. 

Jalar Holley #98 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Louisville Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Miami. The owner of a chain of Florida gyms is offering to pay $6,000 in endorsement money to all 90 scholarship players on the Hurricanes in a move that could significantly impact the future of college recruiting

Jalar Holley #98 of the Miami Hurricanes celebrates with his teammates after defeating the Louisville Cardinals at Hard Rock Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Miami. The owner of a chain of Florida gyms is offering to pay $6,000 in endorsement money to all 90 scholarship players on the Hurricanes in a move that could significantly impact the future of college recruiting 

In total, America Top Team gyms owner Dan Lambert (making 'The U' hand signal)  is proposing to pay up to $540,000 for Hurricanes players to promote his business on social media and through public appearances. As of Wednesday, no players had publicly accepted the chance to make $500 a month for the next year, but that could change after they've had the chance to discuss the offer with their own families and representatives

In total, America Top Team gyms owner Dan Lambert (making 'The U' hand signal)  is proposing to pay up to $540,000 for Hurricanes players to promote his business on social media and through public appearances. As of Wednesday, no players had publicly accepted the chance to make $500 a month for the next year, but that could change after they've had the chance to discuss the offer with their own families and representatives

In theory, recruits may be more inclined to sign with a particular school if they knew they'd get endorsement money to do so. It's unclear if Lambert will continue making this offer in future seasons, but for now, he's created an organization, Bring Back the U, to help facilitate the agreements with an eye towards improving the Hurricanes football program by offering bonuses that could attract top students. 

The proposed deal is one of many to surface since July 1, when the NCAA lifted rules banning student athletes from profiting off their name, image, and likeness (NIL). But unlike the deals already being signed by high-profile individual athletes, Lambert's proposal is the first designed, at least in part, to give one team a recruiting edge.


'I only expect, over the years to come, that this will be enhanced,' Darren Heitner, a Florida-based attorney representing America Top Team, told DailyMail.com. 'Every coach and every athletic department will absolutely point back to the examples of success that athletes at the University [of Miami] had with NIL, and try to utilize that as one factor in their recruiting efforts.'

For Lambert, the NCAA's decision to lift NIL restrictions gave him the chance to help his favorite football team without breaking any rules or jeopardizing players' eligibility.

Darren Heitner (pictured), a Florida-based attorney representing America Top Team, helped put the offer together and is doing similar work with University of Florida players

Darren Heitner (pictured), a Florida-based attorney representing America Top Team, helped put the offer together and is doing similar work with University of Florida players

'There are improper ways of fans supporting their players, and now there is a legal way to do it,' Lambert told ESPN. 'And if there is a legal way, and you can dot the I's and cross the T's, I'm going to do it.'

Heitner has already become an expert on the new NCAA landscape, having negotiated several endorsement deals for student athletes after previously helping Florida state representative Chip LaMarca draft new laws protecting athletes' NIL rights.

He doesn't envision endorsers like Lambert replacing traditional college boosters — the wealthy benefactors funding college athletic departments' efforts to attract recruits with luxurious new facilities and other perks — but Heitner thinks similar sponsorship agreements will become essential for top programs, nonetheless. 

The catch is that the schools won't be directly involved because existing NCAA rules continue to ban the institutions from paying athletes directly or arranging for payments. They stand to benefit if the most-skilled athletes are attracted to their colleges by offers from outside sponsors, who in turn reap business benefits from promotional activities the students they've sponsored are now allowed to undertake. 

'You're going to see athletic departments and universities want to be kept at a distance from the actual transactions that are occurring,' he said. 'They're going to want to be as hands off as possible and not be seen conducting business with the athletes,' he said.  

Miami players could earn $500 a month for the next year by endorsing Lambert's gyms

Miami players could earn $500 a month for the next year by endorsing Lambert's gyms

Heitner is already brokering another deal for University of Florida players, although he declined to go into specifics. But as is the case with Lambert in Miami, Heitner, a Florida alum, admittedly has a rooting interest with the Gators.

'Full disclosure, absolutely,' Heitner laughed. 'I spent seven years there. I bleed orange and blue.'

That's not to say Heitner is against helping athletes at other schools. A longtime critic of the NCAA's NIL restrictions, Heitner describes himself as an 'agnostic' who wants 'to see as many athletes benefit from these rights as possible.'

But while he may not be endeavoring to usher recruits to one school over another, Heitner predicts businesses with ties to colleges will jump at that chance.  

'What I envision is that this will be a complement to existing spending for the university — particularly with the brand partners that have existing relationships with the school,' he said. 'I fully expect for those large brands, at some point in time in the near future, to look into possibly partnering with one or multiple athletes at those universities.'  

Florida gym chain owner offers $500-a-month endorsement deals to ALL 90 University of Miami football players as college boosters take advantage of new NCAA sponsorship rules Florida gym chain owner offers $500-a-month endorsement deals to ALL 90 University of Miami football players as college boosters take advantage of new NCAA sponsorship rules Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 10:58 Rating: 5

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