West Virginia University...

West Virginia University

MORGANTOWN —  Get ready for Jarret Doege Inc., West Virginia.

Make room in your bedroom for the “Leddie Beddie” with the headboard that features Leddie Brown’s face and uniform number.

And, if this were still prohibition, who knows, you might find a way to market the Stills Brothers stills, make your own stuff for your tailgate party.

Only kidding, of course, but as Bob Dylan would put it, times they are a-changin’.

And West Virginia’s football program is trying to stay ahead of the times — which is one reason why Neal Brown is such an intriguing coach, for he truly believes in action rather than reaction — and has partnered with marketing consultant and author Jeremy Darlow to educate his players and help them develop skills in growing their own personal brands.

“What we did was try and get in front of this,” Brown said. “It’s about education and educating our players on how to take advantage of that. What is a brand? What does it look like?”

See, the NCAA figures to pass the legislation before that will allow athletes to profit from endorsements by making use of their name, image and likeness, although they must do it without infringing on their schools’ licensing rights.

While no one is quite sure how the final proposal that is voted upon will set it, its believed athletes will be able to do third party endorsements, personal appearances for pay, which would include autograph sessions, social media opportunities and who knows what else — become a partner in a Morgantown or Fairmont or Clarksburg restaurant which bears their name.

While the NCAA is working this out, a branding guru will be teaching them the dos and don’ts of what the NCAA is opening up for them and how to best take advantage of it without having smooth operators take advantage of them.

“Our football players will be learning how to build their own brand from a person who wrote the book on the subject and is an individual who has worked with some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment,” Brown said in the release that announced the new venture. “We’re excited to provide that level of expertise to our players.”

Darlow’s resume is impressive.

He started at Adidas, and grew from there. This is what his website says of his clientele:

‘During and since his time at Adidas, he has worked with some of the most heralded athletes, celebrities, and NCAA programs in and around sports, including Aaron Rodgers, Von Miller, Adrian Peterson, Dak Prescott, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Lionel Messi, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Snoop Dogg, Kanye West, Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, Miami, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Texas A&M.’

His first book has been read and studied by the heads of major college sports programs across the United States, including Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, the University of Alabama, the University of Louisville, Oregon State University, and New York University.

WVU is the second Power 5 program and the first Big 12 school to join forces with Darlow.

What will Darlow offer to the players?

“The goal is to teach athletes how to build personal brands that set them up for success in life, regardless of what happens in sports,” Darlow said. “Too often athletes are defined entirely by their athletic careers without developing influence in other areas of passion. My goal is to change that.”

“This is going to be a great educational tool for our student-athletes,” Brown said. “Jeremy has created a game plan that will teach athletes how to manage, market and build their personal brands. “I look forward to incorporating his ideas into our player development program.”

That fits in perfectly with what Brown already had begun developing throughout his first season as WVU coach and into his second.

Brown has implemented a “5th-Quarter Program” for the team to assist in the development of the total player. In that program, branding is a component under “Real Life.” The other pillars of the program are character development, leadership development, social responsibility and career development.

Darlow’s program is simple and fits easily into the players’ schedules.

The WVU release summed it up this way:

“Each week, student-athletes will watch a short video lesson covering one of his philosophies on brand development. At the end of each video, student-athletes are then given the option to complete an assignment found in their copy of his book, The DARLOW Rules. Those homework assignments make up portions of the student-athlete’s personal brand marketing plan.”

This is a leap into the future for WVU football.

“Today, more than at any other point in history, athletes have the opportunity to build personal brands that transcend the sports they play,” Darlow said. “Thanks to the exposure and influence offered by social media, these young men and women can now control their own brand destiny.”

Rest assured that some universities will not welcome the NCAA’s new ruling which, in some ways, puts their own players in competition with their own brand.

As a fan, do you purchase an officially licensed WVU football jersey or do you go for a T-shirt carrying the players likeness and number and name with no mention ot WVU made by a company that is paying him for his likeness?

But WVU has jumped on board and expects to get a recruiting boost from exerting the effort to help their players understand the new system, the opportunities it presents and ways to approach it, lessons they will be able to take with them beyond the college years.

— Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel




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