The University of Illinois athletics department, through the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA), announced on Thursday that ICON will become the NIL collective of preference since Illini Guardians will wind down its operations.
The two parties initially worked alongside each other in collaboration in the name, image, and likeness space.
“NIL support remains tremendously important to an enriching student-athlete experience and to our success as a program. We are grateful for the time and effort given by Illini Guardians during these first years of the NIL era. Their initiative at the outset was key to our emergence as an early leader on the NIL front. Now, DIA is excited to support ICON as it expands its breadth of operations and capabilities to further enhance opportunities for Illinois student-athletes in this space,” stated Director of Athletics Josh Whitman in a statement.
ICON just recently launched its operations in March. Their aim was to secure charitable opportunities and offer meaningful NIL partnerships to student-athletes who attend Illinois. ICON provided athletes the opportunity to participate in community service initiatives in and around the Champaign-Urbana area.
The collective is spearheaded by Kathleen Knight, who is a former Illinois swimming letterwinner and Development Officer in the university’s Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. Jackie Szymoniak, Chief Operating Officer, also works hand in hand with Knight. Both have worked in the DIA for years in various capacities.
Ever since late 2022, the two have operated ICON on a full-time basis while working closely with key stakeholders to serve the interests of Fighting Illini student-athletes.
“As a former Illinois student-athlete, I am most excited about promoting positive experiences for young people and connecting them with our community to accelerate the university’s success,” said Knight in a statement. “I have spent the bulk of my professional career focused on building relationships within the Fighting Illini community, and I am confident that we are well-situated based on the strength and commitment of our people.”
Meanwhile, the Illini Guardians will begin to shut down its operations in the near future. The collective was created in 2021 and was run on a volunteer basis. They will end its subscription service and redirect its resources and support to ICON in unification to help future Illini student-athletes.