Today marks the first day that college athletes can monetize their likenesses following a landmark court ruling, reversing decades of bylaws preventing them from making any sort of profits while in college.
Division-I athletes, including Michigan Wolverines players, are among those who are now eligible to make money on endorsements, blogs, memorabilia sales, and more.
Already, Michigan Wolverines backup guard/forward Adrian Nunez has launched a merchandise store on his Instagram account.
It’s a welcome change for thousands of college athletes who are often forced to train countless hours while living on meager, if any, earnings during their time on college campuses.
Previously, the rules were so strict that even Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom was unable to monetize his athletic career in any way, shape or form, and was declared ineligible to continue his career with the Colorado Buffaloes prior to his 2004 college football campaign after doing a promotion with Team USA.
As the countdown to the new college sports landscape began, Bloom actively posted about his experiences on his Twitter account, retweeting a short interview and side-by-side pictures of his athletic endeavors.
The @NCAA stole my junior and senior football season at Colorado all because I was an Olympic Skier for Team USA. Via College Sports, INC on @VICETV. pic.twitter.com/4EIZpYz31P
— Jeremy Bloom (@JeremyBloom11) June 11, 2021
Dude, you remember Jeremy Bloom? NCAA wouldn't let him ski professionally AND play at Colorado. pic.twitter.com/qLczFE1c1s
— ?Ekwensu Ocha? (@ExtrFreeBurner) July 1, 2021
He also retweeted stories of athletes who he believed have been unfairly treated in the past.
I can’t stop thinking about Donald De La Haye. A scholarship kicker at UCF who was declared permanently ineligible by the @NCAA for having a YouTube channel. Today is for you @Deestroying
— Jeremy Bloom (@JeremyBloom11) July 1, 2021
I can’t stop thinking about Brittany Collens, a talented tennis player at Umass who had her entire career erased by the @NCAA because of an accounting error that amounted to $252. Today is for you @Brittcollens22
— Jeremy Bloom (@JeremyBloom11) July 1, 2021
I can’t help but think about Aaron Adair. A young man who the @ncaa kicked off the Oklahoma baseball team because he wrote a book about surviving brain cancer. Today is for you Aaron.
— Jeremy Bloom (@JeremyBloom11) July 1, 2021
Amidst all of the debate and reminiscing, a new day has dawned for college athletes across the country, including in Ann Arbor, home to one of the most rabid fanbases, and some of the most popular athletes, in recent NCAA history.
The new rules changes got us thinking about which former Michigan Wolverines would have had the biggest followings, and made the most money, monetizing their likeness in Ann Arbor in the past 10 years (this list does not include recent Olympic superstar Michael Phelps, but instead focuses on players that were well known during their playing days on campus).
Here is the Top 10 list:
10. Mitch McGary- The Chesterton, Indiana product and former five-star recruit didn’t play a ton of minutes during his time with the Wolverines until the end of his freshman season, but he garnered a heap of fanfare for his powerful, unpredictable, and at times reckless playing style.
McGary might not have made the bulk of his earnings until the team’s run to the national championship game in 2013, but he surely would have cashed in big time with t-shirts, bumper stickers, video blogs and the like.
Relive some of Mitch’s best moments in the video below:
9. Maurice Hurst, Jr.- While Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverine gridders never quite made it to the top of the Big Ten with Hurst and his other NFL caliber teammates on board, they did provide plenty of highlight reel plays and great memories.
With his outgoing personality, explosive play in the trenches and signature belly rub, Hurst was one of the most well liked players to play for the Wolverines in years who would have had a field day earning money off of his popularity and unique playing style.
Raider Nation's DT Maurice Hurst is tied for the most sacks among rookie interior defenders this season with three, and is tied for third with eight total QB pressures thru Week 10 ?? pic.twitter.com/li86OGrjvl
— MO Raiders (@1prodigiousguy) November 14, 2018
8. Jordan Poole- A fan favorite with a new school game reminiscent of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors (in theory, anyway, as Poole never quite had the consistency to become an All-American), the current NBA sharpshooter and popular Twitter personality would have made a veritable killing off of coining catchphrases and putting them on t-shirts alone.
JORDAN POOLE SENDS MICHIGAN TO THE SWEET 16 AT THE BUZZER! pic.twitter.com/pw0ccm4LZo
— Michigan Alumni (@michiganalumni) March 18, 2018
7. Moritz Wagner- The gregarious yet at times overly self-assured Wagner brought a spirit of competitive fire, a joyful demeanor, and at times cockiness to John Beilein’s Final Four team in 2018, and he was especially beloved for his German heritage and signature moves including the behind-the-back dribble that posterized Nick Ward in 2018.
Moritz Wagner kicks Nick Ward to the curb with a nasty ankle breaker! ? pic.twitter.com/3a44SktqJx
— Evan Petzold (@EvanPetzold) January 13, 2018
If Wagner had been able to sell t-shirts and flags back in those days, Crisler Arena may have been awash in a sea of black, red and gold.
6. Nik Stauskas- Speaking of self-assured players, Stauskas took the Big Ten by storm in 2014 thanks to a barrage of guided three-point missiles and well-timed crossover dribble-drives.
From the nicknames (“Sauce Castillo”) to his love for Justin Bieber to his signature “three goggles” celebration, Stauskas would have had no shortage of marketing material under today’s rules.
5. Devin Bush- Bush helped set off the 2018 “Revenge Tour” that also included Chase Winovich, from his prime position as the best linebacker Michigan had seen in years.
He revolutionized the position for Michigan by bringing a previously unseen combination of fearlessness, toughness and hard-hitting to Ann Arbor.
The t-shirt sales and blog traffic would have been through the roof for Mr. Bush.
4. Chase Winovich- Bush’s defensive partner boasted flowing blonde locks as a perfect complement to Bush’s dreadlocks, and became perhaps an even bigger fan favorite.
Sales from “Revenge Tour” t-shirt sales alone would have made Winovich and Bush quite well-off; until the 2018 campaign ended with a loss to Ohio State.
QB's hate 'em, but we love 'em. @Chase_Winovich with the sack and forced fumble. @NoahJF34 with the fumble recovery and touchdown. #TouchdownTuesday #GoBlue 〽️ pic.twitter.com/gKfNimPIxm
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) March 20, 2018
3. Trey Burke- The 2013 Naismith Player of the Year Award winner, Burke was a fan favorite from his freshman year through the end of his career in Ann Arbor.
From his signature game-sealing steal against Keith Appling and Michigan State to his dramatic three point bomb to send Michigan to overtime against Kansas in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Burke could have profited handsomely off of both his likeness and his actual success in the arena, so to speak.
Wake up with Trey Burke pulling up from outer space to force OT against Kansas
— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) March 4, 2021
2. Jabrill Peppers- One of the “baddest” players to strap on the winged helmet in recent memory, Peppers had the benefit of both Heisman and recruiting hype, as well as icon status as the flag bearer for Jim Harbaugh’s burgeoning, presumed national title contending program during the heyday of his college career in 2016.
From the big hits to game sealing (and game stealing) plays to his overall unique style on the playing field, Peppers was a prototype defensive back who reminded many of a more physical Charles Woodson (with lesser coverage skills, of course).
The cash registers would have been humming if Peppers had been allowed to monetize his immense fame during his college playing days at Michigan.
Jabrill Peppers can do all things ??
The Michigan LB now has 3 rushing TDs this season pic.twitter.com/zwvZrBv2X6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 29, 2016
1. Denard Robinson- With his mega-watt smile, blazing speed and overall wholesomeness, Robinson reminded many Wolverines fans of Desmond Howard, and took Ann Arbor by storm back in 2011, capping off his career with a victory over Virginia Tech in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
Along the way, he beat Ohio State, racked up rushing and passing yards, and spearheaded an unforgettable comeback against Notre Dame at the Big House.
September 10, 2011: @UMichFootball beats Notre Dame 35-31 in a thriller in Ann Arbor.
21 combined points in the final 1:22, including a 64-yard pass from Denard Robinson (@DenardX) to Jeremy Gallon (@jeremy_gallon) with :22 left which set up Michigan’s game-winning touchdown. pic.twitter.com/CwN3dT0DCJ
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) September 10, 2020
Robinson later went on to become the cover star of NCAA Football 2014, a video game that is still heavily sought after to this day.
Simply put, Robinson had as much likability and marketability as any Wolverines player in recent memory, and that’s just part of what makes him number one on this list, and one of the most memorable and celebrated Michigan players of all-time.