UAB Commitment to Draws Attention—and Scrutiny

Jim Cavale was just looking to get in a room.

Since co-founding (AO) last August, Cavale—the former founder/CEO of college NIL software company, INFLCR—had been pitching a number of football and basketball coaches around the country on the opportunity to give a presentation to their teams about joining his college players association.

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Though the coaches were uniformly receptive, according to Cavale, nobody had yet to actually tender an invitation until Alabama Birmingham football coach—and former NFL quarterback—Trent Dilfer finally did so earlier this month. On Monday, AO announced that it had signed up the entire UAB football roster, the first whole-team commitment the association has landed.

Cavale hailed Dilfer, a “player’s coach,” for making it happen, but there were other connections as well: Cavale is based in Birmingham, Ala., and UAB was the third school to sign with INFLCR back in August 2021.

For now, AO’s offerings are relatively modest: By signing up for free, members gain access to an app-based network of pro bono experts, from lawyers to marketing professionals. Cavale’s grand hope is that AO will represent athletes in future revenue-sharing discussions. Juxtaposed the recent efforts of Dartmouth basketball players to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act, AO offers a top-down, management-friendly solution for athlete organizing.

With the Blazers in tow, now counts 2,925 members, more than halfway to Cavale’s working goal of enlisting 5,000 NCAA athletes by the end of the year. AO had been slowly, incrementally building its official membership through direct messages to athletes on social media and calls to players’ agents.

“We signed all of them up one by one,” Cavale said in an interview. “It is a lot harder doing it that way then if we could have an opportunity to get in front of (a) team.”

Calling it a “big get,” Cavale hopes the attention from UAB’s commitment—and the 10-minute highlight video created from it—will lead him into a number of other team meeting rooms.

At the same time, the news gave rise to conflict-of-interest and other questions about Cavale’s initiative, which he launched just weeks after stepping down as CEO of INFLCR, and four years after he sold that company for an undisclosed amount to Teamworks. According to Teamworks, Cavale would continue to be a company shareholder and advisor.

Following Monday’s announcement of UAB’s commitment, which was first reported by, several prominent college athlete advocates took to social media to question the way in which has portrayed itself.

“I’m always in favor of athletes making steps for themselves, (especially) with my adopted home team at UAB,” antitrust economist Andy Schwarz posted on X. “BUT… this feels like a fake/company union, at least from 30,000 feet.”

Though not currently a union, Cavale says that was structured in a such a way––with various sport- and conference-specific chapters––that it could be converted into one if or when the need arises. By Cavale’s appraisal of the college sports landscape, that date is still likely a couple years off, even with the recent union vote of Dartmouth men’s basketball players.

“We don’t know how that plays out, so instead of trying to figure it out now, we are offering them this value from the jump and putting them into chapters with flexibility of unionization as time goes on,” Cavale said.

The idea of a players association actively relying on coaches and schools—potential adversaries in future collective bargaining negotiations—to facilitate membership sign-ups might seem to strain a core principle of organizing.

But Cavale contends that this is fundamentally similar to the role NFL teams have in helping the NFL Players Association sign up new members.

“The NFL owners and NFLPA are looked at as adversaries because they negotiate a collective bargaining deal,” Cavale said, “but when all those guys get drafted last week, who do they automatically (become) members in? The NFLPA.”

Asked about UAB’s ongoing partnership with INFLCR, Cavale insisted that his former company did not present a loyalty conflict for If anything, Cavale argues, that experience now redounds to the benefit of AO’s athlete members.

“I don’t own INFLCR and I am not involved in it in any capacity,” Cavale said. “I have built businesses in the college athletics space for the last half-dozen years, so I understand how athletic departments work, who their leaders are and how their org charts work … We are trying to build a win-win on behalf of athletes. That INFLCR stuff is my past career that has given me context to really take a big risk and leave to do this.”

In June 2023, applied for status as a 501(c)(3) federal charity. Cavale said it has yet to receive a determination from the Internal Revenue Service as to whether it qualifies and therefore had yet to accept any tax-deductible contributions. On its website, currently calls itself a “non-profit.” As Sportico previously reported, AO has a written sponsorship agreement in place with Athletes Innovations, a for-profit entity that Cavale incorporated in April 2023.

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