May 30, 2023 7:39 am

Photo illustration by Lorenzo Gordon

4 years ago, Dennis Gile, a former pro football player who founded a effective quarterback education service in Arizona, decided to expand into the congested college sports recruiting market. 

Signing Day Sports (SDS), a paid app to match higher college prospects with college coaches, was Gile’s significant try. “The new era of recruiting is now,” the firm proclaimed upon its launch. 

That era may possibly quickly extend to Wall Street, as SDS filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission final week for an initial public supplying that would worth the small business about $one hundred million. 

But whilst IPOs commonly mark a firm milestone on a path of powerful, safe development, the SDS filing—which, according to SDS’ SEC prospectus, hopes to raise $22.five million—appears to be the equivalent of a late-game desperation heave toward the finish zone.

According to its filings, SDS’s existing and former accountants have “expressed substantial doubt as to the Company’s potential to continue as a going concern.”

The subscription service, which charges consumers $25/month or $250/year, permits players to upload their film, transcripts and verified very important statistics, and connect with NCAA football, baseball and softball coaches. SDS’s core pitch is that it eliminates travel essential for little ones to get to camps, a standard way to achieve universities’ focus. Although its service is hardly a novel concept—a competitor firm, Subsequent College Student Athlete (NCSA), has been performing some thing equivalent, albeit at a greater price tag point, for decades—SDS boldly touted itself as a game-altering technologies that would let athletes to affordably interface with schools.

And by some measures, it appears to have created a splash.

Its existing shareholders contain Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson sprint auto driver Spencer Bayston and former pro basketball player and NBA Players Association executive Roger Mason Jr. (Mason also serves on SDS’ board of directors.) More than the final year, the firm has grown from eight to 15 personnel, with current hirings like two veteran Division I offensive coordinators: Jeff Hecklinski, formerly of San Diego State, and Luke Meadows, who most lately coached at Troy.

Earlier this month, SDS announced a information-sharing partnership with Chicago-primarily based Zcruit, a recruiting database service that serves more than one hundred Division I schools. “I have been definitely impressed by what they have been capable to do,” Zcruit’s director of small business improvement, Cory Nichol, told Sportico. “They have performed a terrific job of placing collectively a group of individuals who definitely recognize the space.”

What ever indicators of results, SDS has also noticed Gile sued and lately excised from his company—though he remains SDS’ biggest shareholder—amid a spate of leadership turmoil. Most of its board of directors and management group have departed or shuffled titles in the previous seven months.

Absent from the small business, at least lately, is considerably in the way of dollars. As it at the moment stands, SDS does not have money on hand to spend its bills subsequent year. More than the previous two years, the business’ annual income has cratered, from $341,000 in 2021 to just $78,336 in 2022. SDS has $7.two million in lengthy-term debt and would be worth significantly less than nothing at all if liquidated.

Why then try to go to industry? Simply because failure to hold an IPO most likely indicates a death sentence. To finance its activities and obligations, like $1.26 million in 2021 salaries for Gile and 5 other former executives, the firm borrowed millions of dollars it will not have to repay if it goes public. 

Promissory notes that SDS should at the moment settle in money can as an alternative be compensated with shares if the firm goes public. SDS has a $1.32 million bill due in August, one more $six.three million due in 2024 and just $254,000 in money on hand.

Underwriter Boustead Securities expects interested investors to spend amongst $four and $six a share at the IPO. Provided component of Boustead’s charges are becoming paid in warrants for shares in the public small business, there is incentive for the underwriter to sell the IPO.

Signing Day Sports is 1 of a quantity of on the net recruiting ventures that have attempted to make a play for the $29 billion youth sports market. Some of its competitors—such as Hudl, which counts six million active athlete users—provide a free of charge platform for the athletes whilst targeting higher college teams or college athletic departments as their paying clientele. SDS requires the reverse method, charging athletes a membership charge to market themselves and present verified statistics. It competes against market giant NCSA, which was founded in 2000, at the moment employs more than 1,000 staffers and was acquired final year by IMG Academy.

Provided the availability of free of charge solutions like Hudl and the litany of scouting lists and recruiting tools college athletic departments avail themselves of, it is debatable how considerably worth there is for particular higher college prospects (or their households) to spend out of their personal pockets for the recruiting equivalents of dating apps.

On the other hand, SDS contends in its SEC filings, the sports recruitment market continues to see “the finest athletes in the planet get overlooked,” and its technologies can assistance “bring equal opportunity” to collegiate hopefuls at all levels.

In an interview in March with Sports Company Journal, Gile analogized his service to “LinkedIn on steroids,” citing the results story of his personal son Jordan, a prime-ranked higher college quarterback, who accepted a scholarship to play at Florida. On the other hand, earlier this month, Dennis Gile tweeted that following an “unfortunate get in touch with,” Jordan would not be going to UF and was reopening his commitment. (Presently pinned to the prime of Jordan Gile’s Twitter profile is a hyperlink to his highlights on Hudl.)

Dennis Gile declined to comment for this story, citing the SEC-mandated quiet period for IPOs.

A very first-group all-star quarterback from Phoenix, Gile ended up as a starter for two years at Central Missouri, had a cup of coffee with the New England Patriots and later played in each the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League. He in the end created his name education pro and scholastic quarterbacks in his dwelling state. In 2016 a reality Television series constructed about Gile and his education college, QB Academy, started filming by a now defunct marketing and advertising agency, even though the show in no way created it to air.

Soon after launching Signing Day Sports, Gile secured a $700,000 loan in April 2021 from John Dorsey, an Arizona businessman. The parties executed a safety agreement in which Gile pledged as collateral his three% interest in SDS plus any associated proceeds. The loan was due to be repaid in complete final spring. Later that year, Gile stepped down, and Dorsey became CEO.

In September, following Gile had failed to spend back all but $one hundred,000, Dorsey and his household holding firm filed a suit in Maricopa County superior court, accusing Gile of breach of contract. Gile responded with a counterclaim that accused Dorsey of failing to provide on a guarantee to facilitate $six million in startup capital, and deceiving him into relinquishing the CEO’s seat. The parties ultimately settled.

Dorsey, who was paid a base salary of $240,000, resigned from the firm final June, following which Gile reassumed the part of CEO. He lasted till November, when he resigned and became president of the board.

As component of their settlement agreement, Dorsey agreed to waive his claims against Gile in exchange for an initial payment of $ten,000 and a promissory note of $40,000, contingent on Signing Day Sports’ initial supplying effectively raising at least $1 million in proceeds just before July.

In a text message to Sportico, Dorsey named the recruiting app “phenomenal” and stated that his lawsuit against Gile had “nothing to do with SDS.” Dorsey, individually, remains SDS’ second-biggest shareholder. 

The SEC prospectus filed final week inadvertently listed his cell telephone quantity as the Signing Day Sports’ primary corporate quantity, an error Dorsey stated would be remedied in an amended filing. He declined additional comment, citing the confidentiality terms of the settlement.

At the finish of March, SDS paid $800,000 to Gile as component of an agreement to repurchase 600,000 shares of typical stock and which saw Gile resign from his position as president of the company’s board. Dorsey then received $695,000 of that dollars, to address the remaining balance and interest payments on the loan. Gile and Dorsey have due to the fact separately signed covenants not to sue SDS.

Apart from the 88% drop in income from 2021 to 2022, there are other hints of issues in the very first draft of the prospectus. That preliminary kind, filed in November, contained a detailed declaration of users—more than 75,000 higher college students at 600 schools and 436 college athletic departments—while the existing version just refers to “many.”

That is not the only supply of uncertainty ahead of going public. When its IPO has been filed, Signing Day Sports has however to set an initial supplying date.