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M Den launches jerseys with current UM names, numbers; players to profit more than $10 each

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Authentic Michigan football jersey offerings used to be slim, limited by NCAA rules that did not permit the names of players on the back.

But a new era launched July 1 allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image, likeness (NIL), and since Friday, the M Den, official licensed retailer of Michigan gear, has been selling custom official football jerseys.

The M Den has been working with Valiant Management Group, run by former Michigan football player Jared Wangler, who is securing contracts with the current players who are allowing their names and numbers on jerseys to be sold.

Fans can now purchases authentic jerseys with the names and numbers of current Michigan athletes.

Michigan reportedly is the first college program with this kind of arrangement for current football players. Each player signs a contract with the M Den and will receive money from jerseys sold.

“I’m not going to say exactly, but it's more than $10 (per jersey),” M Den owner Scott Hirth told The Detroit News on Monday.

There are two authentic jersey offerings, one for $120 with the name and number screened on, and the other for $180 with it sewn on. The M Den website offers the jerseys on the website by clicking on a position and then choosing a player.

As of Monday afternoon, 72 players jerseys were available, among them a No. 97 Hutchinson, a No. 2 Corum, a No. 9 McCarthy and No. 12 McNamara.

Sales since the M Den announced jersey sales last Friday have been brisk.

“We sold a fair number over the weekend,” Hirth said.

Michigan has an apparel contract with Nike and the Nike/Jordan brand for football and basketball, but Nike only has a custom football jersey program at the moment, which is why custom men’s and women’s basketball jerseys are not yet available.

Hirth believes that will change in the near future, but until then he will continue to work with Michigan on a multi-prong strategy that includes women athletes and male athletes from other sports. As it stands right now, the M Den can’t sell a basketball jersey with the name and number of Naz Hillmon, Michigan’s standout basketball player who was the Big Ten’s Player of the Year last year, or a softball jersey with the name of ace pitchers Alex Storako or Meghan Beaubien, but there are other opportunities.

Within the next few days, Hirth said announcements will be made for in-store autograph sessions featuring female Michigan athletes like Storako and members of the NCAA national champion gymnastics team. Previously, Hirth could only have athletes at signings after their eligibility expired or they had turned pro. The athletes have always been paid for autograph signing appearances.

“We are all about women's sports,” Hirth said. “So we are for sure going to have, and we have had female student athletes in for autograph signings, but only after they graduated. Now we can have them while they're currently eligible, and we can pay them. Instead of being some of their first paychecks after they have completed their eligibility, now we can just start that four years earlier.”

Nike did allow the sales of a No. 4 jersey, the number Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh wore as a player with the Wolverines, but even that could now be monetized, Hirth said. He said they are focused on jersey sales of current players, but technically they could hatch deals with former players like Harbaugh, who would profit from sales.

“In the case of our coach, we would need an arrangement with him to put his name on the back, which that has not happened,” Hirth said. “We could make a deal with (former Michigan quarterback) Rick Leach, but we’ve got to conquer the current student-athletes first because of this new name, image, likeness, and then we'll look at those previous players for sure.”

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Twitter: @chengelis