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New leadership for 'NIL' deals for student athletes, state's first combined kidney-pancreas transplant


New collective in charge of "Name, Image and Likeness” deals for UofA student-athletes

The University of Arkansas has announced a new collective in charge of “Name, Image and Likeness” deals for student-athletes. Arkansas Edge replaces the previous collective One Arkansas and will be run by Blueprint Sports, a California-based company that manages several NIL collectives at Universities around the country. Rob Stein is CEO of Blueprint Sports and said the new agency is a full-service collective that will be able to devote more resources to the University's more than 460 athletes.

"Name, image, likeness is the center of the college athletics universe because it provides these opportunities," Stein said. "It's one of the number one, you know, questions in recruiting on top of, you know, tell me more about the academics and the school life and all that great stuff is what is your NIL program because parents want to understand for their student-athletes, that there is a formal business structure in place to help their son or daughter, if they choose to, to be able to take advantage of this. You know, this is the first of this kind of opportunity. Now we're going to have a full-time staff that is working in Fayetteville that'll be focused on this every single day out in the community, working with the student-athletes looking for opportunities and ideas. Bringing them to them, helping to teach them about contracts and I-9— All the fun things that we deal with every day."

He said Arkansas Edge will be funded through brand or business endorsements and public appearances and also by fan donations.

"Number one is through memberships so that individuals all across the country that have an affinity for Arkansas athletics can support student-athletes by becoming a member starting as low as $50 a month," he said. "The second is through nonprofit fundraising. We partner with a national 501C3 called the BPS Foundation. And that foundation allows individuals to make donations to sports, not a student-athlete but a sport at the University of Arkansas, and receive a tax deduction for that. And in return the student athletes that are selected to to earn that revenue will go out and perform charitable activities in the community."

In 2021 the NCAA changed its rules on student athletes profiting off of their name, image and likeness. Stein said that has had a significant impact on college sports. 

"Ninety-eight percent (98%) of all college athletes do not go on and play professional sports," Stein said. "So this is the one time in their life where they're going to be able to take advantage of the hard work they put in and earned. And the example I always give when people make an argument about whether they're getting a free education, there are folks that are students on campuses all across the country on scholarships, whether it's academic, whether it's music, theater, etc. And a theater major who's on scholarship to go start a movie and get paid and still be on scholarship at school. A musical scholarship, students could record an album and still be on scholarship at school. It's only student athletes that, until 2021, weren't allowed to do the same thing."

In 2022, nearly 200 Razorback athletes had signed at least one NIL deal, according to a statement from the University of Arkansas. 

UAMS doctor performs first combined kidney-pancreas transplant

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock is the only hospital in the state that performs adult liver and kidney transplants. Now, they’ve added pancreas transplants to their list. Dr. Raj Patel is the surgical director of pancreas transplantation at UAMS, and on Sept. 1, he successfully completed the first combined kidney-pancreas transplant in the state.

The patient is a 27-year-old insulin-dependent Type 1 diabetic who has been receiving dialysis for kidney failure and fighting for survival since she was a teenager. Now, she is free of both dialysis and insulin treatment, and Dr. Patel said she’s been able to return to her normal activities. 

In the past, Arkansas patients had to travel to transplant centers located in Memphis, Dallas, or St. Louis. Now, surgeons at UAMS are able to perform the transplants and work with a network of satellite clinics in Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Texarkana, Pine Bluff, Fort Smith, and Helena-West Helena for follow-up care. Dr. Patel said that, as of right now, they will only be doing kidney-pancreas combination transplants. He said dual-organ transplants from the same donor have been shown to benefit patients more than pancreas transplants alone.

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Daniel Caruth is KUAF's Morning Edition host and reporter for Ozarks at Large<i>.</i>
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Matthew Moore is a reporter and producer for Ozarks at Large.
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