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LONE STAR NIL Featured in Frisco Style Magazine

Monthly lifestyle publication notes unique opportunity for Texan college athletes


Frisco Style Magazine, March 2024, by Stephen Hunt


A 2021 court decision affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court changed the face of college athletics forever, opening the door for student-athletes to earn money as amateurs using their name, image, and likeness (NIL). Almost overnight, boosters and other backers of collegiate athletic programs across the nation sprang into action, creating NIL collectives, which are often partnerships with local businesses to ensure their school could offer as much compensation as possible to prospective student-athletes.


Enter Tom Burnett, a resident of Frisco for several decades and longtime NCAA conference commissioner with the Frisco-based Southland Conference, who also helped bring the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Football Championship to Toyota Stadium. In October 2022, Burnett started a consulting firm, Southwest Sports Partners. “I figured I would just do projects on campuses, help friends and colleagues I’d met through the years,” he said.


However, one subject that popped up frequently in his new endeavor was NIL. “People were asking me about NIL; what was I doing with it? What do I know about it? Honestly, I was telling people that’s not my deal, but I can point you in a direction,” Burnett said. “After enough of those calls, meetings, and questions, it hit me this might be something people need help with. The original thought was, let’s consult - I do know a little about it, how it started, that I can help people with basic questions.”


In 2023, he founded Lone Star NIL, a firm that resolved to immediately approach NIL differently, providing a “unique, independent name, image, and likeness opportunity for Texas-based student-athletes enrolled at in-state universities and colleges.” Burnett never had any intention to compete with the NIL collectives backed by boosters and fans with deep pockets at schools like North Texas, Oklahoma, SMU, Texas, and Texas A&M - groups that assist the athletic programs with recruiting the top student-athletes to put those teams in the best position to achieve competitive success.


“We’re not going to compete with the Aggies or the Longhorns or even North Texas, so we had to come up with a new idea. NIL was just another way to give to a university if you’re a booster, a supporter, a fan, whatever you might call yourself. So, the idea we started with was a community-based NIL. That community was Frisco because of the number of high schools, a large private school, Legacy Christian, and this community’s turning out a few hundred student-athletes that go off to college to play sports.”


After starting their focus locally, that quickly expanded to regional, encompassing North Texas, and then Lone Star NIL decided to make its focus the entire Lone Star State. “The hook in all of it is it’s all Texas all the time. The young people have to be from Texas, go to high school here essentially, and then enroll at an in-state university or college,” Burnett said. “If they go out of state or if they come in from out of state, this is not the program for them.”


“I would liken it to an in-state academic scholarship program. Every state has those programs. My kids went to OU, for example, I remember when we got the sheet of scholarships for OU, 80 percent of them were for in-state Oklahoma students, and you know, that makes sense. That’s what you would compare this to.”


Despite only being in operation for a relatively short time, Lone Star NIL already has two notable success stories, both in golf. Davis Ovard, a freshman at Baylor and Frisco High School graduate, received NIL money to play in the Saguaro Amateur Tournament in Arizona in January 2024, while Frisco native Jordan Karrh, a Dallas Baptist University junior, received NIL compensation to play in the Orlando International Amateur Tournament in January 2024.


However, Lone Star NIL isn’t merely focused on helping young student-athletes with NIL agreements; its focus is a much bigger picture in nature than that. “[We’re also] assisting our universities and colleges with enrollment, retention, graduation and tying all that in a nice, little bow for the Texas business community, which we know is booming, and is only going to grow more and perhaps being able to [one day] more formally place high achieving college athletes into the future Texas workforce,” Burnett said.


Much of Lone Star NIL’s early work has centered around showing parents and student-athletes how NIL works. These waters can often be tricky to navigate due to numerous pending court cases surrounding NIL, the rulings of which could change the entire landscape literally overnight. And unlike other states, Texas has yet to approve NIL at the high school level, a proposal that is on the table and, if passed, could be another big gamechanger. “I think so far, while it’s still early in our program, and we’ve got a ways to go, we are really excited about the potential,” Burnett said. “It’s early but we’re off and running. Really excited about what else might be out there for us.”


Lone Star NIL’s “why” is simple - to fill a niche for student-athletes who would not otherwise have NIL opportunities because they either don’t play a high-profile sport or aren’t looking to attend a high-profile college or university in Texas. “The overwhelming large majority of Texas student-athletes at 116 various public and private institutions including our junior colleges, are not going to have the opportunity for NIL. It doesn’t work at their level of university,” Burnett said. “They don’t have the resources, the staffing, maybe the community and alumni support to back that up.”


The mission of Lone Star NIL starts with tapping into the impressive pipeline of talented student-athletes who have grown up in Frisco and throughout Texas. “There’s going to be a day when Frisco produces a Heisman Trophy candidate, [a candidate for] National Basketball Player of the Year or whatever the baseball equivalent is,” Burnett said. “That’s what happens in this kind of community that has built itself in large part about sports being part of the quality of life that we all love here in Frisco.”


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