The first big NIL event of the Mark Pope era is near. The deadline to join is this week.

Some of the details are still up in the air, but the first major UK men’s basketball NIL event of the Mark Pope era is just around the corner, and the deadline to be a part of it is this week.

Kentucky will hold it’s “New Era” event on Saturday, June 15, and — while the exact time and location for the UK men’s basketball showcase have not yet been revealed — there is a promise of a meet and greet with Pope, his assistant coaches and the new Wildcats players, plus opportunities for photos with the UK team members, free food and giveaways.

The event will be accessible only to those who join the UK Athletics-affiliated “Club Blue” NIL initiative, however, and fans wishing to attend must subscribe to one of the men’s basketball packages by 11:59 p.m. Wednesday to receive an invitation to the gathering.

Pope, who was hired last month as the Wildcats’ new head coach, has participated in multiple videos recently asking fans to sign up for the NIL packages.

“This is a great opportunity for you to engage with your team as we chase banners,” Pope said in a video earlier this month announcing the Club Blue initiative. “And I’m thrilled about the opportunity to connect with you. There is no better fan base in America. Club Blue basketball is your ticket to exclusive experiences, engagements and opportunities throughout the year. We’re working to build something special, and your support is the catalyst we need.”

Club Blue is a department-wide drive that has specific subscription groups for men’s basketball, football, women’s basketball, baseball and several other sports.

Pope has billed the New Era gathering next month as the first “meet and greet” with the new Kentucky roster. The Wildcats’ men’s basketball players typically arrive on campus around the first of June for summer classes and the start of offseason preparation.

Mark Pope was named the new head coach of the Kentucky men’s basketball team last month.
Mark Pope was named the new head coach of the Kentucky men’s basketball team last month.

To attend the New Era event, fans must sign up for one of the Club Blue men’s basketball packages by the Wednesday deadline.

There are several subscription tiers, including the “Pope $41” subscription, which features monthly giveaways, a Club Blue swag bag, a $15 voucher to the Club Blue store and an “exclusive print” featuring the new UK coach, who wore No. 41 during his playing days at UK.

The other tiers range from the Pioneer package ($25 per month) to the GOAT package, which costs $500 per month.

One-time contributions to the NIL collective are also accepted, but fans must be an active subscriber to one of the specific monthly packages to receive an invitation to the New Era event next month. The exact time and location of the event will be announced Friday. More details on the Club Blue packages are available at

Club Blue is the latest UK-partnered push to drive name, image and likeness dollars toward the university’s athletics programs, and 100% of the net proceeds from the men’s basketball subscription packages and one-time contributions will go toward supporting the team’s NIL needs.

Pope has had to recruit an entirely new team following the departure of John Calipari, who was the head coach of the Wildcats for 15 years. All 10 of Calipari’s underclassmen from the 2023-24 season have either entered the NBA draft or put their names in the transfer portal, and UK will not return any scholarship players from its most recent roster.

Since taking the job, Pope has secured 10 commitments for next season, adding transfers Koby Brea, Lamont Butler, Andrew Carr, Brandon Garrison, Kerr Kriisa, Otega Oweh and Amari Williams, as well as incoming freshmen Collin Chandler, Trent Noah and Travis Perry.

UK is still expected to add to its 2024-25 roster, with former BYU guard Jaxson Robinson, who played the past two seasons under Pope, and North Florida guard Chaz Lanier among the possible additions in the coming weeks. Both of those players are going through the NBA draft process, and the deadline to pull out of the draft is set for May 29.

Pope has not expounded much on his approach to NIL in interviews since accepting the UK job last month, though the subject did come up during his introductory press conference in Rupp Arena on April 14.

“Let me say something about NIL,” he said then. “It is more than just cash. It is building a future and contributing to a community. And doing that right takes a lot of effort. And I can go into hours and hours of conversations on that.”

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