A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Country Roads Trust — which includes Wheelhouse — and the company’s task
It’s refreshing, isn’t it?
For once, West Virginia is leading the pack instead of sniffing tails.
I refer, you might have guessed, to the Country Roads Trust LLC group that will obtain contributions to create Name, Image and Likeness opportunities for WVU athletes.
There’s not a like company set up for Pitt. Or Penn State. Country Roads Trust, in fact, is one of only a handful set up around the country.
And not only is Country Roads Trust a company, it’s a star-studded company. It’s one with which Mountaineer athletes and donors are immediately comfortable. Former WVU athletic director, NCAA VP and XFL commissioner Oliver Luck? Arizona Diamondbacks principal owner and managing general partner Ken Kendrick? Advisory Team members and school legends Jerry West, Don Nehlen, Pat White, Darryl Talley, Da’Sean Butler, Mike Gansey, Ginny Thrasher, Pat McAfee, Jaida Lawrence Hart and Jedd Gyorko? Are you kidding me? If all those folks put their good names on the company, you can rest easy knowing it’s the gold standard.
Oh yeah. And Wheelhouse Creative has proudly played a part in the creation of Country Roads Trust as well. Oliver had heard many good things about our marketing company here in Wheeling. He wanted to keep the money in West Virginia. So, he called me and a working relationship was set up. That beautiful Country Roads Trust website that’s out there? Wheelhouse Creative designers like Matt Myles and Joe Jacobs. The social media sites? Created and put in play by our digital specialist Ty Thorngate. And the public relations work to launch the company was a task I enjoyed very much.
See, this Country Roads Trust company is a labor of love. For Luck, Kendrick and his team, it’s all about keeping WVU competitive. They saw a need screaming for attention and are filling the gap. In a big way.
Just ask Oliver about the creation of the Trust.
“I think there are enough people — alumni, boosters, former players, donors, etc. – around the country who really care about their alma mater and the athletic fortunes of their alma mater,” Luck said. “It’s the marketplace. There’s guidance from the NCAA and the schools themselves. The schools don’t want to facilitate and arrange these deals. They want to stay out of that space. They are fine with educating the students about what NIL is and reminding them to do their taxes, etc. But they don’t want to be in the business of arranging and facilitating these deals. In some cases, there are state laws that prohibit the universities from arranging deals.
“So, it’s a response from the marketplace. We have a free enterprise, capitalistic system and there’s enough passion around college athletics for this. There are folks like Ken [Kendrick], who called me up a month or so ago and said, ‘Oliver, I’m worried WVU might not be able to remain competitive unless we put our heads together and create an entity to create NIL opportunities for our student-athletes.’”
They made calls. To West and Nehlen and McAfee and Gansey. They reached out to Thrasher and White and Talley and Lawrence Hart. Butler and Gyorko said yes. They all said yes. And, according to Luck, they said yes immediately and with enthusiasm. Luck called us at Wheelhouse to help with the launch.
Now, Country Roads Trust is moving to the business at hand.
“There will be a staff that will handle the day-to-day duties,” Luck said. “Neither Ken nor I will be involved with that. We will announce the names of the leadership staff at the end of this week. We will encourage student-athletes at WVU to sign up. Are you interested in becoming a member of this Trust? If you are, we’ll go identify as many appropriate opportunities as we can.
“There won’t be any pressure to sign up. There’s no obligation or mandatory signup, but we will provide the opportunity. You’ll see that we’ll reach out to every company, corporation, business entity in the state and outside the state – companies run by Mountaineers. We’ll work with them, encourage them, persuade them, to figure out ways to help the student-athletes with NIL opportunities.
“Of course, there has to be quid pro quo. There has to be some value [to the company]. We want to make sure to monitor that. Even though there are very few rules right now, we want to make sure to follow what rules there are.”
Indeed, there are a lot of legendary names behind this. Some have won Olympic gold medals and they’ll insist on the gold standard.
That’s good news for WVU athletes. That’s good news for donors. That’s good for Mountaineer fans.
And we at Wheelhouse are proud to have helped with the effort.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.