Syracuse Orange: Head of Orange United ready to ‘vie for championships’

Syracuse Orange (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse Orange (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Syracuse University graduate and long-time Syracuse Crunch executive Mark Hayes is “excited” and ready to get to work as the general manager of Orange United, a commercial NIL collective that launched this past Tuesday and will support all Syracuse Orange sports in name, image and likeness opportunities.

SU Athletics, on Tuesday, noted in a press release that Hayes had been tabbed as the general manager of Orange United, a new commercial NIL collective that has some big-time goals in Central New York to forge NIL deals with Syracuse Orange student-athletes in every ‘Cuse sport.

Most recently, Hayes has served as the Crunch’s vice president of revenue generation. The Syracuse Crunch is a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League, and it is an affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hayes, this week, was kind enough to send some thoughts to me via text message. He says his last day with the Crunch is this Friday, and he will begin as GM of Orange United this coming Monday.

“My phone has been non-stop over the past 12 hours and is proof of the excitement. I’m excited to get started on Monday and ready for the challenge. Orange Nation … let’s get to work.”

Orange United, which supports all Syracuse Orange sports, has an experienced leader in place.

Orange United is being managed by the Atlanta-based Student Athlete NIL (“SANIL”), which currently operates more than two-dozen commercial collectives nationwide and has more than 1,000 student-athletes under retainer contract.

This past Tuesday, Orange United officially launched its operations. I wrote a piece when it launched, in which Jason Belzer, the founder of SANIL, shared a lot of details on this new collective, including its overall strategy, its impressive board of directors and where Orange United can reside in the larger NIL space within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Orange United, as I noted in the other story, has signed a deal with multi-media rights company LEARFIELD to be an official partner of, and the preferred collective for, SU Athletics.

A native of Camillus, N.Y., Hayes graduated from SU in 2006 with a focus on sport management in the infancy of the program. He says he got to work under Michael Veley, selling football and basketball tickets for SU Athletics.

Veley, by the way, is an endowed professor, department chair and the founding director of SU’s sport management program within the university’s Falk College.

Hayes wrote that working with Veley “gave me the experience needed upon graduation to work for the Syracuse Crunch for the next 17 years.”

With the Crunch, Hayes served in various roles, including senior director of revenue & partnership development and senior director of group sales. A press release from June of 2017 stated that Hayes had been promoted to vice president of revenue development for the Crunch.

Torrey Ball, SU Athletics’ deputy athletics director for business development, told me in a phone interview this week that Hayes is an “amazing addition to Orange United.” Citing his background and experience, Ball said that Hayes “will add depth of knowledge in the space we need him in … I’m super excited about it.”

On Wednesday, I published another column where Ball provided numerous thoughts about the launch of Orange United and what it means for SU Athletics and Syracuse Orange student-athletes moving forward in the NIL space.

Hayes says that when he spoke with Belzer and others, Hayes “fell in love with the mission and vision of SANIL. Being an alumni, and having had the opportunity to witness the 2003 national basketball championship … it adds something special to the student experience and ripple effect for the local businesses and community.”

Belzer, in a recent phone interview, says that Orange United is focused on three things. Driving SU fans into the collective through memberships, forging relationships with the business community, and attracting individual donors who want to financially contribute to the collective.

Hayes said, “The memberships will give fans unique access, special offers and opportunities to connect to the athletes like never before.”

He continued, “Syracuse has a story to sports history and there is an expectation to not only be competitive but vie for championships. We need to be a destination for the Jim Browns, Ernie Davis, Carmelo Anthonys, Donovan McNabbs, Marvin Harrisons, Pearl Washingtons, the Gaits, the Powells and the Derrick Colemans. With NIL our alumni and fans can be a part of that resurgence.”

By all accounts, based on conversations I’ve had this week, Mark Hayes is a strong hire as Orange United’s general manager. I’m looking forward to staying in touch with him to see how this new collective is progressing in the coming months and beyond.

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