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🏅 Interview with Blake Baratz

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Hey there,

Today’s interview is with Blake Baratz, an agent who just made headlines by signing 2027 QB recruit Peyton Houston for NIL representation. As founder and president of sports agency IFA, Blake has a wealth of knowledge from the agency side of sports — he’s negotiated contracts for big-name NFL players, college athletes, and now high school athletes with Houston.

Our conversation spanned the college sports spectrum, from his thoughts on the House settlement to how he handles clients of different ages. We think you’ll love it— let’s get into it.

— Cole, Justin and Collin

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Can you tell us a bit about what IFA is, and how you guys got into the NIL world?

IFA is a holistic, comprehensive approach to representation. We are helping young men and families be successful well beyond the playing surface. That is our mission. There is so much misinformation out there and it was always imperative to me that we were going to help players and their families navigate their careers with consistent communication, conversation and education behind everything we do. This is about life, football is a means to an end, but it is not the end. 

NIL was a natural progression of where the business was heading and probably should have been heading for some time now. The business is just going further downstream, amateurism is really a thing of the past. All of these student-athletes are businesses and need professional representation to navigate their futures. 

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Obviously, there’s a lot of change happening right now with the House v. NCAA settlement discussions. How could that settlement change the way college sports operate? How does the settlement affect the agency side of things?

In a system that was already outdated and behind-the-times, change was inevitable, however, change also requires structure, organization and people that have the requisite experience to navigate the change. We are simply bringing years of professionalism, credibility and experience to a landscape that has very little of it. I believe we do the best job in the entire business. Finding experienced good people that are honest, humble, transparent, and credible is extremely rare in this field. It shouldn't be, but it is. 

You’re in the weeds of NIL – negotiating with collectives and managing relationships with student-athletes. That’s given you a unique perspective. What’s one aspect of the NIL world that people misunderstand?

In my opinion, I think people hear the term NIL and think that money is falling from the sky and that's simply not the case. For us, NIL has always been about the bigger picture, education, brand building, philanthropy and preparing them for the next level of their careers.

For me, everything goes back to educating our clients at every turn so they are equipped to make the most informed decisions they and their families can make for their futures. It is a process, but many want a quick fix. It's the shiny object. Lebron said it best, kids are worried about many of the wrong things. I blame social media enabling for much of it.

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You just signed Peyton Houston, one of the top QB recruits for the 2027 class, for NIL representation. Take us behind the curtain a bit on how that happened, as well as your thoughts on Houston from an NIL standpoint.

Our business is about personal relationships and referrals. Peyton and his family were connected to us through a longtime mutual connection. We believe in Peyton the football player but more importantly, we believe in Peyton the person. Our principles and beliefs align perfectly with those of the Houston family and we are excited to see what his future holds in the years to come. 

IFA has clients at the professional, college, and now even high school levels. How does your approach to each client change based on age? What do your younger clients require as opposed to your older ones?

The foundation of our company was built on education, so whether it's a seven-year NFL veteran in Jonathan Allen or a high school Freshman in Peyton Houston, our approach is relatively the same. Of course, there will be different challenges that arise along the way but truly understanding the situation and providing all of the necessary information and guidance will always be paramount.

It starts with simplicity and honesty. Here is what we can do, here is what we cannot do and we need the right partners. We are not for everyone and do not strive to be for everyone. I am very particular about who comes into our family.