Kyle Hamilton, Cam Hart, Conor Ratigan and KJ Wallace have another game to play while attending Notre Dame.
The four students are members of the university’s football team, and they are getting ready to give fans and Notre Dame sports aficionados their own take on sports and whatever else they might find interesting.
Stating Wednesday, the quartet will hold forth on “Inside The Garage,” a twice-weekly podcast in which active players from the college’s 2021 football roster offer up game previews and recaps and also talk about their day-to-day lives. The podcast is being launched by The Volume, a network founded by sports personality Colin Cowherd, popular for his shows on Fox Sports. The podcast will emanate from inside the garage of the players’ off-campus house.
The program puts a spotlight on some of the new possibilities for student athletes in the wake of changes of rules by individual states as well as the NCAA that let college players monetize rights to use their names, images and likenesses. Suddenly, college athletes are free to strike partnerships that harness the power of their Instagram or Twitter feeds, or work on outlets like Cameo.
Upon seeing the rule changes go into effect, “we began a search for compelling college athletes with personality and authority,” said Cowherd. “We were lucky to find Kyle, Cam, Conor and KJ, who are passionate about podcasting and just happen to play for one of the most iconic brands in sports.”
Cowherd launched his podcast network in January, and it comprises his own work as well as selections such as “Jenkins & Jonez” and “Boxing with Chris Mannix.”
In an interview, Hamilton, Ratigan and Wallace said Notre Dame officials knew about the project but not too much about it. The three noted they had deliberately kept the parameters “vague.” The trio noted they would not be making public any information that would be detrimental to their team, but would likely talk about things that happened during plays or practice that fans would not hear about unless they listened to their discussion.
The rule changes give the players a way to talk directly to fans without having to go through traditional media venues, says Hamilton. “As of now, the only outlet we have to connect with the fans was pretty much through the media, through interviews,” he says, but the questions asked during those exchanges may not focus on topics the players are interested in discussing.
The players say they are deliberately keeping Notre Dame’s name off the podcast as well as the university’s logo and markings. And the four players, who live together, may be able to take some of the longer conversations they have and make those part of the podcast as well. “If this really goes the right way, we could have a bunch more listeners past the Notre Dame fan base,” says Ratigan.
With the new rules, a lot of college athletes are likely to try their hand at new money-making and image-building ventures, says Casey Muir, senior director of client management for football at Octagon, the Interpublic Group sports-entertainment-and-management unit. “These college kids are all fighting for the same slice of the pie that every professional athlete is,” he says, and will likely have to grapple with issues around compensation and marketing. He believes college athletes are likely to find a great deal of demand for their services as social-media influencers, and may have to press for ways to raise their profiles in a market filled with athletes seeking new ventures.
But the players say their podcast concept came together organically, not due to the change in rules. Indeed, says Wallace, the first conversations about building a podcast came when he was at home, taking to friends about football.
“Inside The Garage” will be available where podcasts can be downloaded and on YouTube, with clips available on social media. The hosts will also produce behind-the-scenes content, reacting to in-season moments.