ST. LOUIS — Just after one of Saint Louis University’s top student-athletes announces he may transfer to another university, SLU announced a new effort to help its student-athletes “cash in” on the ever-evolving business of college of sports.  

Among all of SLU’s student-athletes, one name stands out.   

“I know (the name) Yuri Collins,” said SLU student Amaani Hanin.   

Collins is the St. Louis product who stayed home to play college ball. He’s become one of the top players in the country at his position.  He’s announced that he’s entering the NCAA ‘transfer portal’ to potentially play for another school next season.  Experts say it’s likely a “business” decision.  

More and more businesses are turning to “social media influencers” to promote whatever the businesses are selling. For instance, people with large social media followings get paid to post about things like their travels to Las Vegas; what they eat there, what they wear there, and where they hang out there.    

That can go for St. Louis, too.   

The NCAA now allows college athletes to cash in on their “NIL”:  name, image, and likeness.  SLU has just partnered with a company called #INFLCR (Influencer) to set up what’s called the “Billiken Exchange”:  an online portal where companies can connect with athletes and pay them for their “NIL.” 

“It’s a big part of the school community.  You think of SLU you think of going to the basketball games,” said St. Louis U. student, Claire Condon.    

“I like that they’re trying to make it more engaging,” Hanin said. “I like the idea that it’s out there because I feel like a lot of people don’t really know about it unless they are student-athletes.”  

“There’s no question people know the brand of a Billiken,” said SLU Athletic Director, Chris May.  “They know the brand of a Billiken student.  We’ve got a bunch of bright student-athletes that bring a lot to the table for people in the community to really engage with.” 

This streamlines the process for companies, most likely St. Louis area companies.  

“You can go online.  You can apply to get your company engaged right away.  You get approved and you can immediately connect with Billiken student-athletes,” May said.  “They’re great young people coming here to get a world-class education.  Now they can connect with them as they can connect with all kinds of different students on campus.”  

The “Billiken Exchange” had been in the works since the start of the New Year, he said.  The timing of the Collins announcement was coincidental.   

After the SLU athletic department approves a company’s application, the university is out of the picture. Then, it’s just business.