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Create Every Opportunity Launches Immersive Educational Platform to Teach College Athletes Financial Literacy

While college athletes finally getting paid thanks to name, image, and likeness rights is undoubtedly a good thing, there are also challenges for student-athletes that come along with the money. Specifically, the lack of financial literacy among young people, in general, is an issue.

That’s where Create Every Opportunity (CEO) comes in.

CEO co-founder Zachary Sarf initially started the web-based platform to teach high school students about financial literacy and entrepreneurship. With the advent of NIL in college sports, the company is now expanding with a new interactive web platform called CEO Connect.

“With the recent passage of all these NIL bills, we saw that a lot of these athletes were making a ton of money, but they had the same problems that the high school kids had, where they weren’t taught a lot of these basic skills, whether it was as simple as the difference between a debit and a credit card, or how to read a pay stub, or what taxes are and FICA and all the different scores,” Sarf told The NIL Deal.

To help address this NIL problem, Sarf and his team came up with CEO Connect, a subscription-based course curriculum that delivers more than 300 interactive learning modules available anytime, anywhere on a smartphone or personal computer. CEO Connect modules feature quality content on topics including bank accounts, money management, budgeting, resume building, interviewing, interest, saving, investing, credit scores, entrepreneurship, and business planning.

One of the big things that set CEO Connect apart is that its modules are taught by some of the biggest names in the world of sports and business, including MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, three-time NBA champion Bill Cartwright, Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini, and Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Magazine, Jason Feifer.

“Rob Manfred was one of the first people we had,” Sarf recalls. “He just wanted to help high school kids, and he connected us with so many other people, it just had a trickle effect like that.”

The impressive list of presenters on the CEO Connect — from billionaire Carlyle Group investor David M. Rubenstein to an upcoming module featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel — helps student-athletes learn from people they can relate (or aspire) to rather than someone in a traditional classroom setting.

Sarf and CEO got into the NIL space thanks to an amendment to the original Florida NIL law that said athletes had to take a two-tiered financial literacy course to be eligible for NIL. The Florida House of Representatives even brought CEO in to talk about what financial literacy means to student-athletes, what topics need to be taught, and how to teach them.

As a leader in the NIL space, Sarf also shared his thoughts on the state of NIL in general.

Like most people in the industry, Sarf hopes for more standard regulations across the industry but sees the NCAA as the better, quicker option to do this, as opposed to the United States Congress.

“Bigger picture, it would be awesome [to have national NIL laws]. My big problem is that it takes so long to pass, and a bipartisan bill sounds awesome — that’s the great part about financial literacy. It shouldn’t matter if you’re blue or red. It’s just, ‘I agree, we should teach financial literacy to kids’ — but it normally takes a very long time.” Sarf said. “My ideal situation is for the NCAA to step in there and do something.”

And while Sarf has confidence that the much-maligned NCAA can step up and be a leader in NIL regulations if they hire the right people and keep the student-athlete’s best interests in mind, he also hopes that no matter who sets the NIL rules going forward — be it schools, the NCAA, states, or the federal government — that, like Florida, they keep the need for more financial literacy at the forefront of any new laws.

As for CEO’s evolving role in NIL, the platform is constantly updated to reflect the most up-to-date information on financial literacy and NIL. After that, there could be other opportunities down the line for the company to get more involved with athletes in an advisory role or some other capacity.

“Any way we can help would be awesome. We were in this space before anyone thought it was cool,” Sarf joked. “But at CEO, we are very well-versed in the space.”