Maryland basketball’s Turtle Athletic Foundation is a charitable foundation using name, image and likeness of Maryland student-athletes to help promote charitable causes and contribute positively to our local communities. The foundation officially launched in late May and began accepting public donations back in July. With Harry Geller serving as the managing founder of the Foundation, former Maryland basketball manager Peter Littman handles the day-to-day operations as he aims to maximize the players’ brand and image through the foundation.
Littman served as a student manager during Maryland basketball’s run at a share of the 2019-20 Big Ten regular season title and now, he’s building on the experience once gained in College Park. “I went to Maryland and tried out to be a student manager and got the job. That was way before NIL became a thing,” Littman told Inside the Black and Gold. “I always say being a student manager, especially if you want to go into the sports world, is the number one thing you can possibly do because a) you get that experience and b) you get to meet people who have lifelong experience in the industry. That ultimately let me be where I’m at today. I did what I had to do. I was up early, out late, always tried to be the first person to answer a message when somebody needed something and with that mindset, it put me in a position to have an opportunity with NIL when the rules changed.”
Turtle Athletic Foundation has benefitted from public donations and booster support that have reported in excess of $750,000 in total donations. Inside the Black and Gold connected with Littman for a progress update, how the foundation has helped the players so far and how fans can get involved.
IBG: What’s the objective for Turtle Athletic Foundation?
PL: Turtle Athletic Foundation is meant to help guys build their brand. For example we partnered with a startup shell company Memento based at the university into building some NFTs for some of the guys. Last year, guys like Donta, Fatts [Russell], Eric Ayala all created their own NFTs so that’s where Turtle Athletic Foundation is involved. More on the brand building.
IBG: How have donations been for Turtle Athletic Foundations so far? With public donations squared away, have you seen a jump in overall funding?
PL: We’ve received over 100 donations so far and in a sense of getting in touch with different Terp alumni and Terp fans to get involved with Turtle NIL, it’s been great. We appreciate Terp nation with their help there. They know how important it is to be involved in NIL. I read a quote today…Damon [Evans] spoke about how Blockbuster wished they got involved with streaming back in the day. We essentially have the same mindset here. Ever since we launched the website, we’ve received a lot of donations, a lot of support so it’s been great so far.
IBG: Even before Turtle Athletic Foundation launched publicly, how would you gauge how involvement went with the current student-athletes?
PL: A lot of the guys hire their own separate marketing agents and a lot of the guys had their own parents involved to try and find different ways to attack NIL. The one thing that the public didn’t really know is Turtle Athletic Foundation launched relatively recently, within the past few months, but we’ve been doing work for separately for NIL during the Mark Turgeon days. It might not have necessarily been known to the public at the time, but we were formed looking to do the same thing just on a smaller scale before we officially launched it to the public a few months ago.
IBG: What opportunities have the players been able to enjoy thus far through Turtle Athletic Foundation?
PL: One thing we were able to do recently is, for people that don’t know, Donta Scott has his own book published and we were able to buy around 150, 200 copies of his book and that money was used from the fund and donations and in turn, Donta was able to go to St. Frances Academy and there was a basketball camp that he attended. Spent some time with kids there, gave out copies of the book, signed it. So that’s kind of the thing that we want to push more and more, be able to allow guys like Donta to not only capitalize on NIL, but ways to give back to the community. That’s where the Turtle Athletic Foundation benefits student-athletes and the community.
IBG: Any new endorsements/partnerships thus far this summer?
PL: We’ve got some things in the works. Turtle Athletic Foundation is great, but a lot of guys are doing work on their own outside with brand deals and agents, and we welcome players maximizing their opportunities. Some things are in the works that I can’t speak of right now just because it’s not open to the public, so be aware of it, but like I said there are things happening.
IBG: What’s been the reception and feedback from the current players?
PL: Players love it just because it gives them an extra opportunity to capitalize off their NIL so to be able to have a group like us just focus on their NIL gives them a chance to step back from it and focus on what matters, which is getting good grades and competing well on the court. To have us on their hands makes their job a little bit easier, it’s not easy to be a college athlete to begin with. Just to stress again, the Turtle Athletic Foundation gives them an opportunity to give back to the community without having to worry about other factors in play.
IBG: Where do you see the most room to grow Turtle Athletic Foundation? Opportunities that are available but haven’t been tackled yet?
PL: The season’s right around the corner so the more we publicize it and market it, the better it is. I’m confident in our growth based off the reception we’ve gotten early on from fans and donations when we went public, so I think when the team finally takes the court, they see coach [Kevin] Willard for the first time out there, it’ll just build that ‘we’re back, Maryland basketball is back’ kind of feeling. I’m confident once the team takes the court for the first time, people will want to get more involved especially seeing the stuff we’ve been doing and the stuff that’s upcoming.
IBG: Hypothetically if a fan and/or company has an event, what’s the best way to get that set up?
PL: If a fan is looking to get in touch with us, the best way is to fill out the form or send me an email on our website. We are always looking for additional partnerships and welcome any feedback from Terp Nation. There are no limits to the work that can be done with our players. Whether you are a business owner looking to promote a service/product, or a fan wanting a player to send you a custom message, we are flexible to work with you. We are excited about Turtle Athletic Foundation to offer these opportunities to connect with fans and in return, allow our students to maximize their NIL.