“Sports is a business” — it’s a common refrain when college athletes or coaches change teams that’s used to account for the individual nature of opportunity. But for Pitt football, it will soon take on a new meaning.
The Panthers recently announced a partnership with Jeremy Darlow, a brand-marketing executive of 15 years, who detailed his plan for helping athletes prepare for a life after sports on a Zoom media call last Friday.
“I am helping college athletes build their brand specifically to set them up for life after sports,” Darlow said. “It’s not about signing shoe deals. It’s not about endorsements. It’s not about cashing checks, for me. It’s about how we need these kids to build a plan for life after sports.”
During the call, Darlow offered some insight into what his goals are for the partnership with Pitt. He said that his program, which will function similar to a class with lesson plans and homework, will take only four minutes a day and help athletes form a personal brand that will help them after their playing days are over. He plans to work with athletes both individually and in group settings.
Darlow also said that his work with Pitt has nothing to do with impending changes to the NCAA’s rules surrounding athlete compensation, and that his work will be focused primarily on the athletes who will likely not see compensation deals.
“These kids need to realize that just because you can, doesn’t mean you will. We need to build a parallel plan,” Darlow said. “I’m not going to rain on anyone’s parade. If their goal is to make it to the NFL, if their goal is to sign an endorsement deal … I’m going to encourage you. But at the same time … we need a plan outside of that, that sets you up when you walk off of the field.”
Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi, who Darlow said reached out a “couple of weeks back,” said he was excited to launch the partnership.
“We want to equip our student athletes with skills and knowledge that will serve them for the rest of their lives,” Narduzzi said in a press release.
Darlow’s experience has primarily been with professionals like NFL stars Aaron Rodgers and Von Miller, among others, but left his position as director of marketing for Adidas football and baseball to focus on work with college students. He has worked with several college athletic programs, including Michigan, Notre Dame, UCLA and Texas A&M. Pitt, West Virginia and Colorado are some of the most recent schools to employ Darlow’s services. He has worked with whole athletic departments at some schools, but will work exclusively with the football team at Pitt.