fresno state football player

Tuasivi Nomura, a linebacker for the Fresno State Bulldogs football team, said NIL proceeds help pay for groceries with a baby on the way. Fresno State Athletics photo

published on April 2, 2024 - 1:31 PM
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Three words   — Name, Image, and Likeness  — and what they represent have allowed collegiate athletes to become paid endorsers and monetize their success outside their school-funded scholarships and benefits.

For Fresno State athletes, the Bulldog Bread Collective has allowed athletes to take advantage of this new NIL landscape. The impact has made a real difference in their lives.

“I think the collective has helped me out a lot—it puts extra money in my pocket so I can pay for groceries. I have a baby on the way, so it’s also helping me put some money aside to prepare for that,” said Tuasivi Nomura, a linebacker for the Fresno State Bulldogs football team.

Nomura transferred in 2022 to Fresno State from USC, where he experienced the early life of NIL. So, when he joined the collective, he was familiar with its workings.

“I believe that both schools are growing with their collective, and I see a great future over here at Fresno State,” Nomura said.

Nomura said the collective also offers a way for the athletes to be out more in the community, interacting with the fans and people who support the university. He believes the collective will continue to have a substantial impact on athletes.

“We have very high expectations for ourselves, and I think this money just helps us show our value, how much we’re valued, and also helps us live our daily lives. It’s hard to be in college without making much money and sustaining a livable lifestyle. I think it helps us balance out all of the aspects of having a normal lifestyle while also being a student-athlete,” said Nomura.


Bread for students

The Bulldog Bread Collective currently has 16 football players signed and about ten basketball players. General Manager Marcus McMaryion, former Fresno State quarterback who graduated in 2018, said they hope to sign more athletes as the collective grows.

The collective is currently in the process of trying to sign Fresno State’s volleyball players after a successful season. The goal is to involve other sports and get everyone taken care of in some way.

Bulldog Bread’s progression since 2022 has been significant. McMaryion and the team have built different membership levels for potential donors to participate, making it as inclusive as possible. The collective has partnered with some local businesses in the Fresno area, some in Dinuba, and all across the Valley.

Big-name support has surfaced. David and Derek Carr became legacy donors, helping support Fresno State in a new way.

“We’re just trying to jumpstart something, and hopefully, it’s something that our community and at least our business colleagues can get behind and kind of come alongside us and help us in that endeavor,” said David Carr.

The donation of the Carr brothers paved the way for many other businesses and individuals to donate to the collective. Other alum donors include NFL players Mykal Walker and Netane Muti.

“I believe firmly that getting those $25/month or the $10/month or $50/month is going to really generate sustainability because every dollar counts. Then obviously, those larger sum donations are really going to move the needle for Fresno State to be competitive across the country,” McMaryion said.


Getting involved

There are different tiers of giving for the collective. Businesses must give a minimum of $5,000, followed by $15,000 and $52,000. Businesses get their company logo and a link to the company website for a year at bulldogbread.com. The main thing that businesses get in return is appearances by Bulldog Bread athletes — film or photo shoots, personal experiences, etc. — to help promote company awareness.

Athletes can charge their own rates and do one-off projects and deals.

Currently, the collective has more than 20 athletes on monthly stipends. These athletes, in turn, have contracts to promote Bulldog Bread and its affiliates and partners.

Companies and businesses have the option to work directly with athletes as well. It’s up to the athlete’s discretion. The collective is the best way for business owners and everyday fans to impact the product on the field directly.

“I think that’s the best kind of way to describe what we’re doing. We not only have the ability to retain our players and kind of keep the talent on the field, but then if we have enough businesses and corporates and CEOs investing in the collective, then we then have the ability to go out and get transfer players and bring the best talent to Fresno State to make sure we have the best product on the field,” said McMaryion.

The collective is helping to level the playing field with more prominent schools that have similar programs for athletes—identical to what Nomura experienced at USC.


New landscape

David Carr said the landscape of college football has changed so much in the last couple of years with the NIL and its different aspects.

He praised McMaryion and the team at Bulldog Bread for their work in helping these athletes. 

With their experience playing pro ball, David and Derek both understand that as much as an athlete would want to go to school somewhere, as great as the school is, and as great as the community is — free agency and the NFL continue to make decisions based on money. Athletes will choose where they will go to school, and if an opportunity arises to make half a million dollars playing football somewhere, they will do that.

“So, I think that if you want to compete with those guys, it’s great to be able to beat them once or twice, and we were able to do that when I was in school. But to consistently be able to do that, I think that we have a unique community. There are some people out there that really love Bulldog football and they love the Fresno State program. So, I think there’s enough resources in this Valley to take Fresno State where they want to be. And I think that if we can help spearhead that, and I’m all for it,” said Carr.

The collective was spearheaded by ESPN 1430 radio Managing Partner and former NFL and Fresno State football player Chris Pacheco. It was created to build a pool of funds, through donations and sponsorships, for Fresno State athletes hoping to profit off of their NIL.

In the year following the Supreme Court’s decision allowing college athletes to profit off of their NIL, many of the nation’s most well-known college athletic programs explored various ways to assist their athletes in pursuing NIL financial opportunities, including collective organizations.

Despite Fresno State’s name, player, and brand recognition, many athletes need help to make ends meet. David Carr shared his story of struggling to put food on the table for his wife and firstborn child while he was at Fresno State. He said athletes today have more resources and opportunities.

“I think that’s just a reality that we have. It’s been positive, and it’s had a positive impact; the alumni donate and get out in front of it,” said Carr. “It encourages others to do the same thing.”

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