How 'Friends of the Pack' is trying to set Nevada athletics up for long-term success

How 'Friends of the Pack' is trying to set Nevada athletics up for long-term success

One of the most vital organizations to the future of Nevada athletics is not actually associated with the Wolf Pack. Per NCAA rules, Friends of the Pack can't be tied into the Nevada athletic department. But that doesn't make it any less valuable. Friends of the Pack is the biggest name, image and likeness collective that raises funds toward NIL deals for Nevada athletes. In May, Austin Clutts, a Douglas High graduate who has earned two degrees from UNR, was hired as Friends of the Pack's general manager. He spearheads that organization's fundraising efforts that eventually trickle down to Wolf Pack student-athletes with those NIL deals being key in recruiting and retention efforts. Clutts recently sat down with Nevada Sports Net to discuss Friends of the Pack's efforts in increasing its donor base to fund future NIL deals for Nevada athletes.

What is NIL to the average sports fan who doesn't understand those three letters?

"You said it best — it's name, image and likeness. But I would basically say it's the best way a college athlete can now represent themselves through their brand. They can kind of build up their whole marketing scheme and just use their name, image and likeness to make a name for themselves, profit on what they feel they deserve now as they make their way in college sports."

Every Division I institution attacks this a little differently. You represent Friends of the Pack as general manager, so what is Friends of the Pack and how does that benefit Nevada athletics?

"Friends of the Pack is a collective that's managed by Blueprint Sports. Blueprint Sports has a couple collectives around the country, and they manage those. The collectives represent the schools and have a good relationship with them and help the student-athletes as much as possible."

How important is Friends of the Pack to the future of Nevada athletics?

"I think it's super important. I think it will be the next way we move college sports in a positive direction. If we can handle it the right way, it was kind of let out of the bottle pretty quickly. But I think it's moving in a great direction, and I think it will only benefit the school and the student-athletes more than ever, and that's all we can ask for."



For recruiting and retention of student-athletes, how important is NIL in being able to get the best athletes on your campus and being able to retain them year after year?

"I would say it's really important. The typical person wants to see their players there as much as possible. They want to see them there all four years, and they want them to experience what it's like to be in a beautiful place like Reno. I think when people come to the campus, they end up seeing what that really is, and I think to be able to keep them here as long as possible is the goal."

When you talk about NIL, it's not like it's handouts for nothing. You guys are a community-oriented collective. What are some of the events student-athletes have done to collect this money and give back to the community?

"We have a lot of great donors that help fund our collective. In return, we like to do a lot of community service with athletes. We visited places like the Boys and Girls Club, the Kings Road Community Life Center and a more recent example, we had some guys get out and help with Reno Love involved with Grace Church, and I think it went a long way. I had so many positive reactions. People loved seeing the guys out there, and we would love to get so many of our men and women student-athletes out in the community. I think it goes a long way with the kids. It goes a long way with adults when they're just out there cleaning up the community. People love it."

How important is it for people in Northern Nevada to be able to have that touch with Wolf Pack athletes?

"I think it's super important. When I was a kid and I got to go and hang out with a college athlete, it just made my day. To be able to know that some of them are local guys, and even if they're not, the fact they're in the community and they want to spread awareness of college sports and their kindness just going around, it just makes a kid's day. It makes anybody's day, really."

Why is it important to get as many people in the community involved in donating to Friends of the Pack as possible?

"We have a new revamped website,, and I think if you visit that you'll be able to see all the membership tiers. We want that to be an opportunity for anybody to get involved. They can get represent the Friends of the Pack gear and know they're helping the student-athletes. That's just one way we think anybody can get involved. But there are donors that can give to our foundation side and nonprofit side. And then there's also ways they can help on the for-profit side and marketing deals at the same time."

How do these NIL payments impact the student-athlete experience in college?

"I think it goes a long way. If you maybe have the idea that the next level isn't for you, you can be involved in the community and meet all kinds of people. Maybe you have a deal with a certain organization or business and now all of a sudden you're building that relationship, you're networking and it could just end up helping you after college sports. But I think it's just a good way for them to get in the community, get recognized and earn their way that they weren't able to do before."



What was your path to becoming the general manager of Friends of the Pack?

"I'm super blessed to be able to do it. I've always wanted to work in sports. I got my undergrad in finance and got my minor in econ and sports management. I love the sports management program at Nevada. They do a great job and they help get people where they want to go. And then the MBA program there is great as well. I was very blessed to be able to finish both of those in five years."

What's the biggest thing you've learned about NIL and trying to navigate that during your first couple of months on the job?

"It's always changing. A lot of things going on. Like I said earlier, it came quick. And I think it's just going to keep coming, and it's not going anywhere. That's the thing that we want to keep telling people is it's not going anywhere. So we want to be able to make it as positive a change for these student-athletes as possible because we want them to be able to earn what they should have been before, and we want to be able to help that as much as possible."

How would you say Nevada has approached NIL compared to your conference colleagues?

"Of course, we're trying to go at UNLV. We're doing the best we can. I think we're doing everything we can to get to it. I think we're moving really quickly and we're moving in a positive direction, and I think that Nevada will be looked at in the Mountain West for sure."


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