United Wholesale Mortgage CEO Mat Ishbia makes no secret of his Michigan State mania, reportedly dropping more than $30 million on the school’s athletic program this year alone. But the one-time basketball walk-on’s latest MSU payout has current and former employees crying foul.
Ishbia announced his company will be paying a generous stipend to all 133 MSU men’s basketball and football players starting this upcoming school year, the Detroit Free Press reports. The news comes as UWM faces a lawsuit over its treatment of employees and ongoing complaints about working conditions at the Pontiac, Michigan-based company.
NCAA athletes had long been banned from receiving such payments while playing college sports. But the conference recently changed its player compensation rules to allow student-athletes to sign endorsement deals on their own Name, Image and Likeness (NIL). MSU players will receive a $500 monthly payment for a total of $6,000 over the year, regardless of position.
“The Spartan family sticks together, and that’s what makes MSU athletics so special,” Ishbia said.
Some UWM alums say they don’t feel like family, however.
“Welp, that’s where all that money went. [Expletive] UWM,” one employee posted on social media.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by former UWM account executive Annie Haberlein earlier this year made a host of explosive allegations. Among them, that the company refused to pay employees required overtime wages and forced them to log unpaid hours prior to the official start of their shift.
Employee complaints about UWM’s work culture are not new. In a 2019 essay, writer Mo Ismail claimed to be a former worker at the company and, like more recent claims, said UWM pushed its employees to work harder for less pay. Ismail also alleged an HR rep divulged a private conversation to his division leader. He ultimately departed for UWM rival QuickenLoans.
If those allegations are substantiated in court, the MSU donation could end up being an albatross around Ishbia’s neck.
In fact, Ishbia’s MSU donation is already creating blowback from fans of women’s sports. Two Democratic Michigan state reps released a joint statement decrying the “lack of gender parity in UWM’s investment in MSU’s athletes,” which pays stipends to male athletes but not females.
“In 2021, this sort of blatant sexism is unacceptable,” Rep. Laurie Pohutsky said in the statement. “All athletes, regardless of their gender, should have the same opportunities and be invested in.”
And Rep. Mari Manoogian added: “It’s on all of us to fight for pay equity and critical that we call out gender discrimination.”
Because the deal isn’t being organized by the university itself, it’s not a violation of Title IX federal regulations against sex discrimination.
Whether or not the payouts will bring brand recognition to UWM while avoiding any nasty fallout remains to be seen. “[W]e’re excited to help support [the athletes],” Ishbia said in announcing the program, “while also helping educate consumers about the benefits of independent mortgage brokers.”
Ishbia isn’t the only MSU fan among the major mortgage players. One of UWM’s competitors, Rocket Mortgage, is currently the “presenting sponsor” of Michigan State men’s basketball, while the sponsor for the women’s team is MSU Federal Credit Union.
UWM did not respond to requests for comment.