How Wisconsin athletes are benefiting from a unique NIL deal with Madison's Exact Sciences

Feb 17, 2024 MJ Hammill entered what can be a scary time of an athlete’s life in mid-December. She went into the volleyball season last fall knowing it would be her last with the University of Wisconsin, and she had to turn her attention to her next chapter when the Badgers’ season came to an end in the NCAA national semifinal. A unique name, image and likeness agreement that Hammill and seven other Badgers athletes have entered with Madison biotechnology giant Exact Sciences and Learfield is allowing Hammill to get a taste of the job opportunities available in her field and help causes she’s passionate about before she graduates with a degree in biomedical engineering.

“I've gotten to see, kind of top to bottom, all the different roles that (Exact Sciences) have there that you wouldn't even think about,” Hammill said this week. “And then they'll even sit down with me and really kind of ask, 'What would you want in a company? What really interests you?’ And their experience and being able to see me as a whole really helps that and obviously adds a lot of guidance to a world that I’m not familiar with. ” Exact Sciences came to Wisconsin administrators last summer looking for athletes whose majors fall in the healthcare fields with whom to partner in an NIL arrangement.

Eight were chosen after an interview process: Hammill, Dara Andringa (women’s soccer), Phoebe Bacon (swimming and diving), Austin Brown (football), Taylor Gilling (track and field), Sophia Gruenling (rowing), Kylie Robbins (track and field) and Molly Schlosser (softball). Their majors range from health promotion and health equity, genetics and genomics, and biology. Badgers athletes will help promote the work Exact Sciences does and lend their likenesses to marketing materials in exchange for payment, career exploration opportunities and participation in charity programs that Exact Sciences has established or is in the process of starting.

'It's unreal': Former Wisconsin star Leo Chenal dishes on winning a second Super Bowl Learfield’s Badger Sports Properties, which licenses Wisconsin’s trademarks and intellectual property for NIL deals and other situations, will allow Exact Sciences to use Wisconsin’s marks in content featuring the athletes. NIL deals that feature Wisconsin’s logos and other marks generally have been among the most valuable and impactful since such arrangements were allowed nationwide in July 2021, according to Brian Mason, the school’s director of NIL strategy. Hammill’s been able to get a jumpstart working with Exact Sciences due to her not participating in offseason training.

She decided to end her volleyball career with the intention of going for a master’s in nursing at another school, but since has decided to seek a career in the bio-tech space. Hammill said she’s interested in helping Exact Sciences’ work with the senior community, as well as women’s health and in domestic violence shelters. She’s happy to be part of a different realm of the NIL world, too.

“That's also what's cool about NIL is, everybody sees the social media side of it where you're posting products or something like that,” Hammill said, “where with Exact a lot of times, I'll be able to post a picture with a charity that I really care about and hopefully will draw attention to that, and my platform can be a space to really like amplify and highlight that. ” Brown, a junior safety, had to pivot from his original plan when he enrolled. He wanted to major in kinesiology in the hopes of becoming a strength coach, but when he learned he had to take chemistry classes as part of that major, he started looking elsewhere.

“Anything like that is not me,” Brown said with a wide smile and a laugh. “I know what I'm good at and that's one of them, so I want to succeed … the second-best thing was health promotion, health equity. And then when I declared, they showed me the 60 past graduates of that major and there's like not one person in the same job.

There's people who are athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical device sales reps, like the list was just on and on of different job opportunities. ” The flexibility of his major and his desire to become a medical device salesperson fits well with an arm of Exact Sciences’ corporation. But Brown said he’s excited to learn about other possible career paths and broaden his knowledge of what Exact Sciences does.

“I feel like the big thing about college is being able to make connections for your future. Whether that's for something you might be interested, just getting your finger in to get some experience, gotta have some people that you know in case you do want to — you say your major is one thing and you're looking for this, a lot of times it changes, so it's nice to spread out your little friend tree that you’ve got of different skills and mindsets. So in case you have to go to Plan B, Plan C, you have different opportunities that are there.

” .

Colten Bartholomew | Wisconsin State Journal
Filed 02.18.2024

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