Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Memphis and FedEx Agree to Landmark NIL Partnership

The University of Memphis hosted first and second round NCAA tournament games at FedExForum.
The University of Memphis hosted first and second round NCAA tournament games at FedExForum.

Friday morning, a landmark name, image, and likeness deal in college athletics was announced, as FedEx pledged 5 million dollars annually to University of Memphis student athletes over the next five years, making headlines nationally due to this deal being the first of its kind. This is the largest corporate partnership with a university athletic department for name image and likeness in the entirety of college athletics, and comes shortly after Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, donated 50 million dollars to the Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium renovations. Initially, the deal will be focused on funding NIL for football, men’s and women’s basketball, and additional women’s sports at the university.  

On 92.9 ESPN’s Geoff Calkins Show, Memphis Athletic Director Laird Veatch explained, “You have arguably one of the biggest, largest, definitely most creative for decades in the sports sponsorship space, stepping in in a big way through NIL. That tells that there’s real value in it. That tells that there is a way to make this really work, not only for the company. They also see the big picture, the see how successful student athletics at the hometown university impacts the university, impacts the city, and therefore impacts the company.” 

When it was first announced student athletes could profit off of their name, image, and likeness in 2021, these corporate sponsorships are what many had in mind, with an athlete providing a service to promote a company while getting paid for it. Since then, it has devolved into collectives gathering funds to shell out to athletes, effectively making college athletics play for pay to the highest bidder. As Veatch described it, “It’s really a massive example of what NIL was intended to be on the front end, and we believe is going to signal a new direction and new credibility for real NIL from a world leader and sports sponsorship.” 

The main reason this deal has garnered national attention is because of how groundbreaking it is and how it provides a model for sustainable NIL. Collectives all around the NCAA are struggling right now because their donors are not willing or able to give any more money for NIL, and as a result the sustainability of the model has come into question at many places. For Memphis, a university outside of the power structure of college athletics to enact such a deal is truly remarkable. This did not happen at some big money program such as Alabama football, or Kansas basketball, but rather the rough around the edges, scrappy University of Memphis. 

Which leads to this: nobody outside of the now Power 4 after the fall of the Pac-12 is operating at the level Memphis Athletics is. The University of Memphis is on the forefront of NIL in all of the NCAA, starting a 200 million dollar renovation on their football stadium they now own, and play basketball in an NBA arena that is certain to get renovated in the next decade. 

Nobody in the new look, watered down AAC should be able to compete with Memphis in revenue sports. Ryan Silverfield and Penny Hardaway will now have more money to spend to get players than anybody else by a considerable amount, and now pressure is on them to produce results that reflect as much. Whenever either need to get a massive recruiting win, they need not look further than FedEx, and should have enough talent to not just dominate this league, but to compete on a national level with power schools. 

After getting left out for what seemed like the millionth time in the most recent and soul crushing bout of conference realignment and getting passed by schools Memphis used to be superior to in realignment discussions in Houston and UCF, the leaders at Memphis had a decision to make, whether to double down or give up. Thankfully, they chose the former.  

With another set of conference realignment theorized to come up with the schools such as Florida St and Clemson jumping ship from the ACC to the SEC, Memphis has clearly asserted itself as the top option for power conferences in the Group of 5, and has put itself in incredible position should the wheels of realignment turn again.  

Once again in the sports scene of the city of Memphis, FedEx, like always, has stepped up and delivered in a massive way. 

Similar Posts