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The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

CryptoCougs Uninvited From NIL Event

CryptoCougs founder criticized Kirk Schulz in a letter
CryptoCougs ad as seen in Sept. 7 edition of the Daily Evergreen, Oct. 11, in Pullman, Wash.

As a result of running an ad urging WSU President Kirk Schulz to resign in The Daily Evergreen a few weeks ago WSU Athletics uninvited the founder of CryptoCougs from an Athletics-sponsored name, image and likeness event.

CryptoCougs is a NIL collective focused on creating opportunities for student-athletes at WSU with financial compensation. CryptoCougs works independently from WSU and there is no overlap between either organization, Lance Paine, CryptoCougs founder, said.

Paine wrote a letter critical of Kirk Schulz and paid for a full-page ad space to run the letter in the Sept. 7 edition of The Daily Evergreen. Paine previously paid for another full-page ad in the Jan. 26 edition of The Evergreen, hoping to alert the community of what CryptoCougs is and the work they do. 

The letter titled “Kirk, time to go!” criticizes Schulz’s participation in the efforts to secure a Pac-12 media deal. Schulz serves as the chair of the presidents of the Pac-12 and while trying to negotiate a media rights deal with Apple, University of Washington and University of Oregon decided to move conferences, beginning a strew of departures that now leaves WSU and Oregon State University as the only two colleges left in the Pac-12. 

“You were the head of a triumvirate of Pac-12 university Presidents in charge of the new (and now failed) Pac-12 media deal,” Paine said in his letter. “Instead of championing your trivial position as the leader of the media deal Presidents, you should have been planning for the worst case scenario because now we’re here.”

The letter continues on calling Schulz a “hired employee” and not a true Coug, stating that long after Schulz is gone, Paine’s NIL collective will still be up and running, supporting athletes while WSU does the opposite, in his opinion. Paine’s call to action is that ultimately Schulz needs to resign because he “failed WSU.”

Paine later received an email on Sept. 20 from Nick Garner, assistant-athletic director at WSU, inviting CryptoCougs along with another WSU focused collective to an NIL Town Hall. This event aimed to talk about the importance of NIL from student-athlete and coach perspectives, and had an educational panel on collectives. 

“This would provide you all with the platform to share more about what you do and how you do it,” Garner said in the email sent to Paine and other collective team members. “It wouldn’t be able to be a solicitation, but hopefully it would provide you all with a platform to reach a wide audience and provide education.”

This email came six days before the event was scheduled to happen, and Paine booked a ticket to Pullman the next day. Two days after the email was sent, he received a phone call from Ike Ukaegbu, deputy director of athletics at WSU, disinviting him from the event because the letter he paid to run in The Evergreen embarrassed Schulz and he was not welcome to the event anymore, Paine said. 

“Initially my thought when I got the email was okay, they’re finally coming around to the idea that these two collectives… are doing… the majority of the work to pay, to get service agreements and then tactically pay our student-athletes in the NIL space,” Paine said. 

The phone call lasted eight minutes, and it was unclear whether the revoked invitation came from WSU administration or the athletics department as a whole, he said. 

“The fact that they think that’s okay to do, that’s wholly not okay,” Paine said. “I wasn’t slandering the man, there’s nothing libelous about what I did.”

No one from WSU Athletics including Ukaegbu were available to comment on the situation Bill Stevens, Senior Associate Director of Athletics , said.

CryptoCougs has given over $1 million to student-athletes since it started in Jan. 2022. Paine does not make any money from running CryptoCougs, and his collective takes as little as they can from each NIL deal. The money used for athletes comes from sponsors, contributors and some personal boosters, Paine said. 

In order to build brand equity, CryptoCougs creates service agreements that have student-athletes doing posts for their collective on Instagram, in exchange for payment, Paine said.

Even though CrypoCougs does not do much in the way of NIL for football at WSU, CryptoCougs works with athletes from the men’s and women’s basketball team, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s baseball, Paine said. 

Part of the reason Paine wrote and paid for the letter to be published is because he wanted Schulz to understand that communication to WSU supporters has been extremely minimal. People need to know and be updated about the issues WSU faces, especially in a time where information is so readily available, Paine said. 

Paine said as the basketball season approaches, CryptoCougs will continue to work on creative solutions for student-athletes and continue to get the best NIL deals for student-athletes, Paine said.. 

“I will continue to work my network of contributors and continue to pay student-athletes through the service agreements that we create so that the school can have competitive NIL,” Paine said. 

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About the Contributor
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.

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  • west side cougOct 12, 2023 at 11:24 pm

    To Lance Paine
    Nailed it, Tough and uncomfortable to read but nailed it ,