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ICON Collective launches to provide NIL opportunities for Illinois student-athletes

ICON Collective
Photo credit: Courtesy of ICON Collective

Illinois has a new collective that will provide NIL opportunities for student-athletes.

ICON Collective, a University of Illinois-aligned NIL collective, announced its official launch and it will work with Fighting Illini student-athletes in the ever-changing landscape of NIL.

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Kathleen Knight, a former Illinois swimming letterwinner and Development Officer in the university’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, will serve as President and CEO of the ICON Collective, which has filed for 501(c)(3) status.

“We have seen over the last year and a half that NIL continues to be one of Illinois’ greatest opportunities to gain and maintain a competitive advantage. When the concept for ICON was coming together, we saw an opportunity to not only provide significant NIL opportunities to Fighting Illini student-athletes, but also to positively impact our local community and beyond. It felt like a win-win, and our early work at ICON has proven that to be true,” Knight said in a statement.

Knight formed the business, ICON Collective, Inc., this past November. However, the organization’s application for 501(c)(3) status is pending approval from the IRS, with an expected response in the summer of 2023. Once approved, donors will be able to contribute to ICON Collective, which will qualify as being tax-deductible.

ICON Collective’s focus will be to “secure charitable opportunities and offer meaningful NIL partnerships to student-athletes who attend Illinois.” Those athletes will participate in community service initiatives in and around the Champaign-Urbana area.

“Name-image-likeness has taken the college athletics landscape by storm, creating an opportunity for programs like ours at the University of Illinois to advance themselves competitively while, at the same time, providing tremendous benefits and life experiences for our student-athletes,” University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We are grateful to Kathleen and Jackie, two former DIA administrators in whom we have incredible trust and confidence, for their unrivaled integrity, creativity, and leadership in assembling the ICON Collective.

“This effort sets a new standard for benefiting many different stakeholders through NIL, including, notably, local nonprofit organizations. We are excited about the work they have already undertaken and look forward to their future successes.”

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In the first few months of existence, ICON Collective has offered over $1.5 million in contracts to Fighting Illini student-athletes, per the press release. The collective currently has two full-time employees: Knight and former DIA Assistant Athletic Director for Golf Operations Jackie Szymoniak, who serves as ICON Collective’s Chief Operating Officer.