The 315 Foundation offers a ‘new and different’ opportunity for Syracuse athletes

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John Bol Ajak held a microphone, sitting next to Symir Torrence in front of a host of clients from M&T Bank and Wilmington Trust, months into Syracuse’s 2022-23 men’s basketball season. On a boat, still docked, the couple answered questions from fans before joining them for dinner. Head coach Jim Boeheim also spoke with the guests.

Elite NIL, a company co-founded by Mike Bristol and Tony DeSorbo, hosted the event. But Boeheim mentioned another group that Bristol and DeSorbo created called the 315 Foundation.

The foundation is separate from Elite NIL, but the two groups have the same goal: to help athletes benefit financially from their own brand. Like the collective Name, Image and Semejanza, independent groups from a university that combine funds from promoters and companies, the Foundation 315 allows Syracuse fans to make tax-deductible donations directly to the school’s sports teams.

“We are turning something that is new and different for NIL athletes into something that is beneficial to everyone involved, including the community and local non-profits,” DeSorbo said.

After NIL’s introduction last June, it has gradually benefited Syracuse’s top athletes. Players appeared on billboards sponsored by companies such as Apex Entertainment and received clothing offers from The Players Trunk. Finally, the university itself reached an agreement with The Brandr Group to promote NIL associations.

“We are very excited that (athletes) will be able to benefit from the combination of Brandr’s group licensing efforts and Syracuse University’s intellectual property,” said Mark Wheeler, Syracuse Associate Director of Athletics Compliance.

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Prior to NIL, Bristol worked as a kind of “sports marketing agent”, helping ex-SU athletes secure local sponsorship deals or other opportunities thanks to their notoriety.

Last year, Bristol and DeSorbo did the same thing with athletes still in school, helping Buddy Boeheim, Sean Tucker and Megan Carney understand the importance of their own brand.

“There are a lot of opportunities for students to make a lot of dollars,” Bristol said.

The idea for the 315 Foundation came about 11 months ago. The couple was concerned about the sustainability of the deals they were making, fearing that zero dollars or big boosters would simply “give shows money,” DeSorbo said.

For example, SEC schools receive millions of dollars each year from wealthy promoters to help their football programs, DeSorbo said. It’s possible that one or two of those teams will make it to the college football playoff. But not everyone is going to be successful, which makes booster donations somewhat obsolete.

“That sparked a thought in me like ‘hey, how can we make this more of an added value for us?’ instead of some rich boosters giving money to boost the NIL of a particular university,” DeSorbo said.

DeSorbo’s previous experience as CEO of an asset management firm, where he managed billions of dollars for nonprofit clients, helped with the transition.

“It really is a natural fit, it was pretty seamless to be perfectly frank,” DeSorbo said.

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There are still concerns about the collectives and their inability to help all the athletes at a given school, benefiting the stars instead. Boeheim said that because the university and coaches don’t know what the 315 Foundation does with certain donations, they can’t guarantee that the collective will help every player on a given team.

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“My hope would be that if we get this to work, all players would be treated equally,” Boeheim said.

Head football coach Dino Babers understands that it may not be possible to benefit all athletes, but the foundation will have a positive impact on the surrounding area. Runner Sean Tucker said the 315 Foundation’s primary goal was “to help the (Syracuse) community” through events like meetups and youth clinics, which they hope to hold in the future.

nbc sports ranked Syracuse as having the 14th largest fan base nationally, with 3.45 million fans. The community can help through endowment funds that can be specialized to support a specific sport. The Bonadio Group, an outside investment firm, was in charge of the endowment funds, allowing DeSorbo and Bristol to invest the money professionally.

DeSorbo and Bristol’s ultimate vision is to help athletes learn about “philanthropic pursuits” and allow fans to donate specifically to their favorite teams.

“The long-term beauty of this is that every person who identifies as a fan of soccer, basketball or women’s soccer can participate and help those programs,” DeSorbo said.

Contact Anish: [email protected] | @anish_vasu