17 Jul Brittany Wagner | Average to Savage EP 5
This is the fifth episode of the Average to Savage podcast featuring Brittany Wagner. Paul Guarino talked with Netflix’s Last Chance U star Brittany Wagner discussing her rise to fame, starting her own company 10 Thousand Pencils, and her take on education regarding student-athletes.
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Paul Guarino: What’s up everybody, it’s the fifth episode of the Average to Savage Podcast. I have another special guest with me today, Brittany Wagner from Last Chance U. How’s it going, Brittany?
Brittany Wagner: Good, how are you?
PG: Good, good, good. So, could you give us a brief introduction to yourself?
BW: Well, this is Brittany Wagner. I am the counselor from Last Chance U Seasons one and two, which is how most people know me, I guess. I have also worked in college athletics prior to filming the show probably for about 15 years as an- in several different roles- but primarily as an athletic academic counselor. I’m not the founder of 10 Thousand Pencils, and the Last Chance foundation, basically doing the same thing as I was doing on the show, just not working for an institution anymore, working for myself instead.
PG: Gotcha, gotcha. Yeah, so you were on seasons one and two of Last Chance U, so what was it like being on the show, and what was it like becoming one of the stars of the show?
BW: I mean, when filming the show, I really didn’t know- season two was really different than season one, but season one I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I’ve never been on a TV show, I’ve never been around filming of anything. I don’t know that I really understood what was about to happen. It was fun, there were definitely moments of fun and it was exciting just to be and just to know- they were filming and that they cared about my work and my job. I loved the crew, the cameraman and the sound techs and producers, I really liked them so I think that was very important. I enjoyed being around them on a daily basis, so that was kind of fun just having those different personalities around and in my office and stuff, that was kind of fun at times. You do it for a while and it’s fun and it’s exciting and it’s new, and then you know, I don’t know about a couple of months in, you’re like “this is every day and all day and they follow me everywhere.” You definitely have your moments where you just want everyone to go away, and your moments where you’re questioning “oh my gosh, are people going to like me, is this going to be successful, what am I doing, why did I agree to this?” I think you’re kind of all over the place when you’re filming something like that, and I had no idea that the show itself would be as successful as it has been, and I definitely had no idea that I would be “a star” of it, I never expected that.
PG: So it was weird when the cameras started following you around?
BW: Yeah, I mean it’s weird. I would get up from my desk, and I tried really hard to just be myself and do my normal routine, but it’s weird when you get up from your desk and you’re just walking to the admissions office to just as a question and five people are following you. Or when you’re going to eat in a cafeteria and you’re sitting down with coaches and friends to eat, and cameras are filming you putting every bite of the greasy hamburger in your mouth, and it’s just odd. They came to my house and filmed me, it didn’t really make the show, but it filmed me going abou my daily routine with Kennedy on a Saturday and Sunday, and that’s weird. I remember going to a pumpkin patch with her to pick out our halloween pumpkin, and getting out of the car and six people jump out of white vans and you know, and they’re following me to the pumpkin patch and all of the people that are working at this pumpkin patch are looking at me like “what is going on? Who are you?” That’s weird, it’s weird for everybody, it’s uncomfortable. You try to play it off and just be as normal as possible, but it’s not normal to be followed around with cameras every second of your life.
PG: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So would you say season one was more raw than season two?
BW: I think overall it would be unfair to pretend like it wasn’t, you know. I do think season two was still real and we were all really- that happened and we were genuine and we were being ourselves, but I think it would be unfair to say that the success of season one didn’t alter season two. It was definitely harder, I do feel like there were some guys on the team that just came to East Mississippi to just be famous, and that was a little bit harder to deal with, just the personalities of season two. You have your moments- well with season two I was dealing with- people don’t realize that season one came out in July, we started school in August, so the guys reported in August, were starting a whole other group and season, and whole other year, and we’re filming season two, and on top of all of that, I’m being bombarded with interview requests, business opportunities, all kinds of people driving to scuba to take a picture of me. It got to the point where I just couldn’t answer my phone, I was getting hundreds of emails a day, so I think there was just a lot going on in the filming of season two that maybe, you know, fans don’t really know about. A lot of it was just because of the success of season one.
PG: Yeah, for sure. So, do you still keep in contact with players from East Mississippi?
BW: Yeah, I do. I think we’re all, you know, we have our own lives and we all definitely- we’re two years out from season one, so I think we’ve all moved on in a way, and we all kind of have our own things going on, but I definitely keep up with a lot of the guys, even before we started filming the show. Guys you didn’t see on the show I keep in contact with, because that’s just kind of what I’ve always done, but I talk to John Franklin quite a bit, Ollie, Dakota from season two, every now and then Tim Bonner and Chauncey Rivers. Yeah, the ones you saw me close to in season one and season two I still communicate with.
PG: Yeah, actually I think it would be cool, I don’t know if it’s possible if they could do it, like if the season comes out the season after? It would be like live, but it would be hard for editing and production and things like that.
BW: Yeah. You know, one thing that I think would be interesting if they would do it is to get us all in the same room together and show clips and just let us sit around and talk about it, because-
PG: Yeah, they do it with other shows, they should do that.
BW: Yeah. I think it would be really fun. One thing, the show came out, and by the time it came out, we were all gone from each other, so the players had moved on, I was obviously still there after season one, but we saw the show and we were never around each other again to talk about it. To this day, we have not all sat down in a room and just discussed our thoughts or the funny things that happened before or after a scene that didn’t get caught on camera. You know, we haven’t been able to sit down in a room and discuss what we think about the show with each other, which I think would be a very interesting conversation, because I think we all have differing ideas and opinions.
PG: Yeah, I have definitely seen Netflix do that with other shows and have the talks and Q&As and stuff like that.
BW: Yeah. I don’t know why- they definitely should do that. And I think in season three, there is a “where are they now?” episode, so I am told, which we’re all in it, they came back and filmed all of us, but it’s separately. It’d be cool to get us all together.
PG: Isn’t it crazy that some of the guys are making it into the NFL from season one and two? Mostly season one, I think?
BW: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I have 12 guys in the NFL that I’ve worked with from East Mississippi, so that’s not a new thing from me. Every year, I usually get at least one player that is somehow on a team, so it’s always xciting from all of them. I guess the fans get all excited about it because they know the players from Last Chance U, but very excited for John and his opportunity with the Bears, and then CJ Rivas was another guy that was a free agent signing with Jacksonville Jaguars, and I think we had a third. I’m losing my mind at the moment, but we had several from season one. Season two guys, they’re still playing- they are playing their senior year on their college teams this year. DeAndre still has two more years so we have a floor to land it longer. I love watching them all be successful at choosing what they want to do.
PG: Yeah, for sure. I was going to say that John Franklin’s journey has been crazy since he went to Florida State and then Mississippi and then Auburn as a quarterback and then as a wide receiver at Florida Atlantic, and now he signed with Chicago as a defensive player.
BW: Yeah, I’m ready for him to just like- I want peace for him, for it to work, and I really hope that this is the opportunity that he really wants and that it all works out for him. It seems like he’s really enjoying it and really enjoying Chicago and that he is fitting in well with the team. He is a hard worker, he’s a phenomenal athlete, so I’m just hoping that they play to his strengths and that he gets a shot.
PG: So, Last Chance U season three is coming out next week, July 20, and it’s not featuring East Mississippi, as you know, it’s featuring Independence Kansas, so are you going to watch that?
BW: I will watch it. I’m not going to watch it next week, I’ll be on a little vacation with my best friends during this time, and I’m going to try to not buy into the hype right off the bat. I will definitely sit down and watch it at some point, it may take me awhile. It’s hard and it’s kind of different when you were on something and you started it, kind of, like you were in that beginning group and really had a hand in making it successful and to sit back and watch it as a bystander is going to be a little different for me. I’m no going to force myself to do it, I’m just going to ease myself into it, when I’m ready I will watch it.
PG: So, were you disappointed that East Mississippi wasn’t on the third season and that you knew you weren’t going to be on it, regardless?
BW: No. I kind of knew when I decided to leave. There was already conversation around me deciding to leave and that kind of sparked conversation of them leaving and so I kind of knew early on that they probably weren’t going back there. I don’t know what they would have- I know everyone loves East Mississippi and everyone loved the characters, but those characters are gone, and I don’t know- I think it was wise of them to move the show in a different direction. I don’t know what they would have kept getting at East Mississippi. It will be interesting to see the reactions, because I think you do fall in love with the characters and the place and then to move it, that can be tough. It’ll be interesting next week to see what the fans say and the reaction and, you know, I’m excited to see what everyone thinks.
PG: Yeah, yeah, for sure. What about- has anybody from Independence reached out to you seeking advice for the show like they started filming and stuff like that?
BW: Yeah. I had a very long conversation, like a couple of hours, back when Netflix was trying to decide- Netflix had narrowed it down to three or four schools that they were trying to decide between, and Independence had made that final list, and at that point, their athletic director, who is a female, reached out to me and we had a very long conversation, hours, and she had some very great questions for me and I provided some insight for her. It was a great conversation, long, lengthy, very in-detail, very honest. I think at the same time, the show is out there and other schools can look at it if it helped East Mississippi with, the success of the show, but I think there are also some ways that it has hurt East Mississippi, so I think, you know, there were other schools in that running and they were smart to not just be all in and say “wait a minute, how do we prepare ourselves for this, number one. And number two, is this a smart move?” She had some questions in that manner of how do we prepare ourselves and what is the downfall going to be, could this ruin us, basically as an institution? I tried to be really honest with her about what they are getting themselves into and obviously, every experience is going to be unique and there are differences just because of location and school and personalities and all that. I’m not going to pretend to be all-knowing about what they were walking into. I definitely tried to provide insight and help, and I haven’t heard from them since they’ve been selected and since they’ve been filmed, so I don’t know how it all went, but yeah!
PG: Gotcha. And do you think the Last Chance U series could work with any other sport besides football?
BW: I mean, yeah! I think it could. There is another series on HBO, I think “All or Nothing” series on HBO, they started in the NFL and then they went to college football and then they went to a soccer team and then they went back to the NFL. I don’t know- I don’t think that show is hugely successful or that popular, really. I haven’t watched it, so I don’t know how good it is, and that may be why they’re not as popular, because they’re jumping around too much. I think once you find a niche, and the fans buy in, I don’t think it’s smart to take that same show and start playing with it. I think the niche and the fans is that it’s junior college athletes, it’s a different type of football player. And a lot of the allure, I think, is that there are these division I transfers, there are these fall-down stories, and then they get back up, because I think that’s what the fans really love. There is not as much of that in other sports, there is not as many dropdowns for transfers and other sports as there are in football, so I don’t know that it would work, I don’t think they should mess with it. I think they’ve found something and they should keep riding it.
PG: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So, since you left East Mississippi, you started your own company: 10 Thousand Pencils. So, can you tell us a little about that?
BW: Yeah! I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew it was time for me to leave East Mississippi, I had this new platform, I kind of had this new audience and I really felt an internal pull to take advantage of it and just go for it. I left and I had no clue what I was doing, and I still don’t a lot of days, but I just went for it. I started this company, and I started it with this one vision or goal, and it’s kind of morphed, it’s just been interesting how it’s kind of changed itself. So, now 10 Thousands Pencils is really a consulting organization, 10 Thousands Pencils is working mostly with adults. So, I’m finding a lot of administrators, teachers, counselors, they are fans of the show and fans of mine because it’s what they do every day, they see themselves in me. I get a lot of phone calls to work with or speak to- to do a lot of motivational speaking engagement, but I work with these administrators, counselors and teachers on maybe how to be more effective with these types of students, I also do a lot of just motivating, like how to motivate yourself to be the best that you can be every day and dealing with these types of students day in and day out, because it is a very vanquished job, and it is a lot of giving without necessarily receiving anything back. So, I think it takes a special person to do it, and it takes a kind of special mentality to continue to do it. So, 10 Thousand Pencils works a lot with the adults. Like I said, we also have a speaking tour component of it, so I do a lot of speaking events, which I love doing because that just provides me the opportunity to meet the fans and meet people all over the country. So, that’s really what 10 Thousands Pencils has morphed into, and then I wanted to try to get back to working with the athletes in some capacity, so we started Last Chance Foundation, which is a foundation that basically scholarships high school seniors, only football players right now, but high school senior football players into my program. So, this year we’re only taking on four, but we’re going to be taking on four high school senior football players that I will work with one-on-one and I will hire people and train them to work with them as well. We’re starting small with just four to kind of figure it out and figure the kinks out, and then we’ll grow it from there to hopefully- the vision is to hire counselors from all over the country that I train and then we have athletes all over the country that are working with these individuals.
PG: Gotcha. That’s pretty cool.
BW: Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. That is kind of what I wanted to do with 10 Thousand Pencils and it just kind of morphed into two separate businesses, so I didn’t realize there was going to be so much of the- I didn’t realize that so many teachers, counselors, administrators were going to want my input or want my consulting, want my advice. So, that’s kind of what 10 Thousand Pencils has turned into, and then we created the other for the athletes.
PG: I mean, for sure. I think a lot of administrators and stuff like that, I don’t think they know how to talk to people on the regular, and I think you have to talk to them at their level and not think you’re better than them.
BW: Yeah, you definitely have to meet people where they’re at and I think- in education, we seem to be doing what we always have done. We have a hundred-year-old education system that we’re just not really changing for the generations, and I think we can really improve and change education if we would look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and is it effective? And then if the answer is ‘no,’ then I think we should change it. It’s exciting to see so many administrators and schools across the country that are really buying into that now and are really buying into my message and are really caring about the whole person and not just the data.
PG: Yeah, for sure. So, you said that you do a lot of public speaking events. So, where have you been and what is your favorite spot to go to?
BW: Oh my gosh! I’ve been everywhere, I feel like. I’ve been in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Phoenix, Arizona, I just left Dallas, Texas, I’ve been to Detroit, Michigan, I’ve been all the way up to South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, I’m going down to Florida- South Florida in the next couple of weeks. So, I feel like I have literally been everywhere. It’s been great to see a lot of the country this way, I’m getting to see a lot of places that I haven’t seen before, which is fun. I don’t know, I’ve had a lot of great experiences and great events. I really kind of fell in love with Detroit, I fell in love with the school I was working with there, same thing for a school I was working with in Philadelphia, I just really fell in love with that school and those students, too. I will say my best trip, probably not the flight because my flight got all messed up and my luggage got lost, but minus the travel issues, this Dallas trip I just took was phenomenal. The conference I spoke at was called “Educate Texas” in Dallas, Texas. There we 800 teachers, counselors and administrators in the room, and I was the keynote speaker, which was just- to stand on that stage and to look out at 800 teachers listening to what I had to say was an amazing and humbling experience. And then I did two smaller breakout sessions for them where I really dove into some specific stuff to try and help them with this next school year. It was great to hear their stories and see them. Dakota Allen’s middle school teacher was at the conference, so she came up afterwards and we cried over the fact that here she was at this conference I was speaking at and we both knew and loved Dakota. And then I had the opportunity, which was an amazing opportunity, to tour- I had a private tour of the Star practice facility for the Cowboys, and got- I spent the whole day there and it was amazing to learn about their organization and the things that they do for their players. And then I got a tour of AT&T Stadium, and I got to go to a Rangers game, so it was just fun to be in Dallas and work and enjoy- I’m a big Dallas Cowboys fan, so it was an amazing experience for me just on a personal note as well.
PG: Did you get to meet Jerry Jones?
BW: I did not meet Jerry Jones. I got to sit in the perch, though which is a private- his family has the Jones luxury sweet at the stadium, but he has a private perch, and only 10 people can sit in there, it’s usually just him and his sons that are in there and they’ll watch part of the game in that perch, and I got to sit in the perch, which was super cool. But, I did not meet him, he was not there. They were kind of on vacation, they are in-between- the rookies had not reported yet, so they were kind of in-between- on a little break, so everyone was pretty much gone when I was there. It was great!
PG: Have you been speaking more at high schools or colleges or conferences or just everywhere?
BW: It has been everywhere. It’s kind of a nice variety. I’ve done a lot of high schools, I have also done a lot of colleges, which has been fun, I love doing the colleges- I’ve done junior colleges, which I love, and then I’ve started just recently to break into the corporate world. So, I’ve done an event for Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola had me in to do a motivational speech for the employees, I’ve done a social worker event for social workers across the state of Mississippi. I’m doing a big banking event in a couple of weeks, I actually leave tomorrow to do an event down in Mississippi that is for all the administrators and superintendents for the state of Mississippi, I’ll be the keynote for that. It’s interesting when you get a call from Coca-Cola wanting you to come speak, like what do you want me to say? Coca-Cola, why are you calling me? But you know, I think the message of the show- I think it’s a universal message, and relationship-building is something that needs to be done across the board, no matter what you’re doing. It is interesting when I get those calls, but it never fails. Every time I go and do an event like that, I leave thinking “yeah, that was good. That was good.” Coke was fun, Coca-Cola was fun.
PG: Have you been invited to any commencement speeches yet?
BW: I haven’t, which I find interesting! I kind of thought that is what I would be doing a lot of, and I haven’t. I don’t know, I’m probably not educated enough, they always like these very prestigious, educated people so speak at graduation events, so I’m probably too Southern and not smart enough.
PG: Oh my God! So, you also have your own podcast “Sharpen Up,” what kind of subjects are you talking about on there?
BW: You know, I’m kind of all over the place. It’s been really fun, I never thought I would do that ever, and when the company approached me about doing it, I was like “what am I going to talk about?” It’s been really fun, it’s also been really challenging, I will say that. I think the most challenging thing is actually coming up with topics that I think people want to hear, and just coming up with what I’m going to do, what the show is going to be. So, we are actually at the end- I have one more episode, I have not been consistent with it here lately, which is my fault and my bad, but it’s hard to get it done every week. I have one more episode, I’m going to do a final episode for season one, and that will wrap up season one of the podcast, and then we’re just going to sit. I’m not sure when we’re going to kick off season two, maybe around football season or we may wait, not real sure, we’re just going to kind of wait it out and see what happens with season three of the show and see where we need to go from there. It’s been really fun, we’ve talked about football, we’ve talked about relationships, we’ve talked a lot of psychology, some education issues. We also had Drew Jabara, which is the writer for the GQ Magazine article that kind of sparked Last Chance U. We had him on just kind of discussing Last Chance U, I think that was our highest-rated show. We had John Franklin on, Lane Kiffin, we’ve touched on a couple hot topics, I don’t want to get controversial, I did touch on Lebron James’ “shut up and dribble” thing, so we’ve done a couple controversial issues. It’s kind of been all over the place, but people are listening, so I guess they like all over the place, I don’t know!
PG: Yeah, why not? A wide variety of subjects.
BW: Yeah, and I have a wide variety of fans. When we were talking about the podcast, that was one of the things that company that I worked with, they were kind of for when they looked at my demographics and who my fans were, because it’s all over the place. It’s not just men, it’s men, it’s women, it’s not just college students, it’s college students and teachers and adults, I mean my range is like from 18-50 something and it’s all over the country, I have fans in other countries, because Netflix is obviously worldwide. So, it’s really hard to pinpoint a niche, my demographics are just not very tied, because I just have all kinds of fans, which I think is great. It’s just hard to do a show when you can’t pinpoint who your audience is.
PG: True. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.
BW: Oh yeah, I love it!
PG: So, have you ever thought about vlogging?
BW: I’ve thought about it for like five minutes! Yeah, I mean, it’s just really hard to keep all of that up and current. We’ve developed a website a year ago, and already I need to do another one. My website probably at this point needs to be scratched and I need to start over, it’s not updated, I don’t add stuff to it like I should. I’m not technologically savvy, so I can’t do all of that, I need to hire somebody that just does all of my stuff like that for me. I got asked by a fan, who had a blog, to do a guest blog for her website, and that was the first time I had really done it. I was stressed out about it, “what am I going to say, what if my writing isn’t correct, my punctuation,” and all this, and then I just wrote. I just did it. And after I did it, I felt so fulfilled and inspired by it and I felt really good about it. And then after that, I thought “okay, I’m going to do a blog on my website, and I’ll blog about my trips and who I meet and my experiences as I travel,” and that didn’t happen, because it just takes time and I feel like there are a lot of days where I don’t have the time. I have to prioritize, and that just hasn’t made the list.
PG: Yeah, I totally understand that. I have a lot of ideas in my head I haven’t written or recorded or what not.
BW: Yeah, it’s tough to get it all done.
PG: Like I did some blogs because people would ask “how’d you meet this person, how’d you meet that person?” So sometimes I do it as a throwback Thursday blog, and I say how I met so and so.
BW: Oh that’s cool! I really should blog about my trips, because I meet amazing people, and sometimes hilarious things happen. For one reason, I don’t want to forget my experiences, so I really need to write them down, but even just things being in an airport and you’re just sitting at an airport and that moment where you kind of forget you’re famous and you’re just sitting at an airport like a normal person, and then someone will recognize you and scream from across the airport and run at you and you’re like “what’s happening?” So you know, there’s just always funny stuff that happens and I should write it down. Maybe I’ll start doing that.
PG: I actually used to write down what I did like every day. Just a little snippet of what I did that day.
BW: There have been so many experiences the last two years and you just start forgetting stuff, I’m already starting to forget experiences and people and that’s not good. I really need to remember all of this, because it has been an amazing experience.
PG: Gotcha. Alright, one question and then I’ve got some fun questions. So, what are your future goals, and do you have any future projects in the works?
BW: Oh gosh, I have so many. Actually, my to-do list right now, I will actually read it to you. My second item on my to-do list is to write out my plan, because I have all of these ideas and these sheets of paper with my goals and my ideas and I’m like “I’m going to get a posterboard out and I’m going to put all of this out on one paper.” Yeah, for the future I mean, 10 Thousand Pencils is going great, the consulting engagements are going great. I don’t know that a whole lot needs to be tweaked on that, I really want to get Last Chance Foundation up and going really, really well. My goal for the future of that is to explode, I mean honestly, I want a building that I have an office in, and I want employees and I want counselors all over the country that kind of go through this counselor training program where we’re training them, and then I want athletes all over the country that we’re working with and helping free of charge to them. We’re honestly just doing good work and we’re not expecting anything in return, no strings attached for these athletes, and I want us to see the fruits of our labor four, five, six years down the road. That is really my goal and vision for that. You know, I want to get my website fixed and really have a way for fans and people who benefit from what I’m doing to connect with me better. I feel like they don’t, other than emailing me, there is not a great way for people to connect with me, and I want to be able to connect with those people that are supporting me in a better way. Merchandising is kind of on the list, there is- I am in the middle of negotiating a TV contract with a certain celebrity that I can’t really mention right now for a scripted TV show that is hopefully going to be done about me in the near future, so all of that is going on. There is just a lot- a lot of ideas! After being with the Cowboys for a day, there has kind of been some ideas floating around about my maybe starting to work with some NFL rookies, so that’s out there. There is a lot of stuff- a big plan and a lot of goals for the future.
PG: Gotcha. Actually, I have a random question: how did you come up with the name “10 Thousand Pencils”?
BW: You know, the show! The “Do you have a pencil?” line, that was kind of the thing and my brand, I guess, that stuck with me and I had read a book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, and he talked about 10,000 hours of effort, so my thing was 10 Thousands Pencils and I really felt like 10 Thousand Pencils was really symbolic of the athletes I’ve worked with along the way. Also, the hours of effort- I look at pencils as symbolic of opportunity, symbolic of effort, and it takes a lot of opportunity and a lot of effort, taking advantage of opportunity in order to create your path and your outcome. Pencils were just kind of my thing and I tied them in with the 10,000 hours of effort. Drew Jibara is actually the one that came up with it, we tossed around ideas and he is the one to actually kind of finalize the whole 10 Thousands Pencils thing, and then we did the 10TP thing to make it shorter. It just kind of developed over time, but the fans of the show were the ones that kind of developed the pencil thing.
PG: How many pencils did you give out?
BW: I have received over 4,000 pencils from fans all over the world. I have given most of them away, they’re just normal yellow pencils, I’ve given most of them away. I’d love to get my own pencil line, I think that would be fun. And now I’m doing a thing when I go speak, I do a whole thing where I talk about rubber bands and I talk about the power of positive thinking and changing your thoughts, changing your attitude, so I wear a rubber band around my wrist, and every time I get into a negative mindset, I pop myself with that rubber band and when I invoke physical pain on myself, that’ll quickly remind me “change your thoughts, change it now.” So, I give that speech to certain groups. Now, I am asked if I have rubber bands for sale that have a motivational message, so I’m thinking about that, I’m like “I need to get some rubber bands and put encouraging words on them and maybe start handing those out at these conferences.” Pencils and rubber bands, I guess, will be my thing.
PG: I was just listening to your last podcast about that.
BW: I get asked all the time now “do you have rubber bands that I can buy?” I need pencils and rubber bands!
PG: What about pencils- have no pencil brands reached out to you to collab?
BW: No! Which I find so weird. Which, you don’t see a lot of pencil marketing, I guess, pencil companies don’t feel the need to market themselves maybe, but I find it so strange that I haven’t been reached out to by Ticonderago, Bic, or any pencil company. I actually reached out- I’ve had people on my behalf and I’ve reached out to them, it’s my understanding that Lee Corso is the founder or on the board of one of the big pencil companies, and so I thought “ok, there is my tie-in,” but no! I think we could get a huge pencil thing going, just a rebirth of pencils that I could lead the charge on, but I have not been contacted.
PG: Yeah, you’ve got to get on a pencil commercial too!
BW: I am with you.
PG: Well, BIC is right here where I’m at in Connecticut.
BW: Well, they must not have Netflix, I don’t know. They are missing an opportunity.
PG: How do you feel about social media?
BW: Oh goodness. I was not a big social media person before the show, and that was a conversation that Netflix had with me right before the show came out, they how a PR person that sat down with me and said “ok, we need to discuss social media,” and I didn’t do a whole lot on it, all my accounts were private, I’m just not a big phone person in general. So, I wasn’t a big social media person, and obviously now that has changed. I think it has been official in a lot of ways, I love that it connects people from all over, I think that is special, unique and a fantastic thing that I can be connected with someone that I have never met all the way in Wisconsin through this app on my phone, I think that’s amazing and I love that. I also think that like with anything, we have become consumed with it, and I think it is starting to negatively affect young people, they are valuing themselves and their self-worth on how many likes they get, or how many followers they have. Just like anything, too much of it is a bad thing. Again, I think we need to step back and find some balance with social media, because it is a little scary what it could become if we don’t check ourselves.
PG: For sure. So I have a semi-political question for you? Do you think college athletes should get paid, or do you think the scholarship is good enough, if they get one?
BW: I don’t think scholarships are good enough, I think we should figure out some way to compensate them in some way. I think the days of the scholarship being enough are over, I think college football and college men’s basketball have exploded to a level that was maybe not planned for, and it’s all about the money and the TV contracts, and I think the athletes are the ones that are losing out on the deals these days, and I don’t think that’s fair. I think there are a lot of people with a lot of degrees who are very smart and intelligent sitting behind decision-making tables within the NCAA, and I think they could figure it out if they wanted to. I don’t think they want to, because it takes the money away from them, which I think is wrong.
PG: Yes, but do you think like all levels should get paid?
BW: I do, I think that is a tough thing to figure out, and I do understand the dilemma and if you’re going to pay James Winston based on his success or his jersey sale, how do you pay this softball player over here? I get the dilemma in that, but there has to be a solution somewhere that is better than what we’re doing now. I don’t know that the solution refined today would be the greatest end-all, be-all solution, but we can take baby steps until we do find the answer. I think anything is better than what we are doing now. To me, when you have a player who, I don’t know I can’t even pick a name, but you have a player who is from Texas and he’s playing in Florida and he’s driving your team, you’re selling his jersey in the bookstore for $90 a pop, and you’re selling out your 90,000-seat stadium basically because he’s winning and his parents can’t afford to come to his game? And we can’t fly them in? That’s a problem, we have a problem, that is not ok! When this kid can’t pay his rent, or he’s not eating three meals a day, or he’s not getting the support mentally, emotionally, psychologically that he should get as a human being, that is wrong! There is a problem there, and I don’t know how people not invested in fixing the problem can live with themselves, because that to me is just wrong on every level.
PG: Yeah. Do you know who Laval Ball is?
BW: I know the name.
PG: So he just started his own basketball league for 17-19-year-olds so they don’t have to go to college, and they’ll get paid to play in his league instead of going to college for one year.
BW: Okay, yeah. And there is a football league starting up that is going to do a similar thing, so I think people are starting to test the NCAA and these professional organizations, which I’m all for. Let’s do something, it’s better than nothing.
PG: I think in general, probably within the next 50 years, colleges are going to decrease.
BW: And I don’t know that I love that. I do think education is important and I think that college athletics started out as a balance, and it was a way for people to maybe go to college that couldn’t otherwise, and they were getting two things out of it: they were getting a great education, and they were able to play their sport, and I think that is a beautiful thing. I don’t know if I want the education to be completely taken out of it, but we’ve gotten to the point where we are not valuing the education and we are using the player, but we are saying they’re education. But are they? I think there has got to be a different solution, and I want education to be part of the solution, but we can’t just stand there with our arms crossed doing what we’ve always done and thinking that it’s okay when somebody is making millions of dollars off of these players whose parents can’t even watch them play, we just have to fix it.
PG: It’s also crazy that the coach they’re playing for is most likely a millionaire.
BW: Yeah, coaches’ contracts are a little out of control, it seems like administrators and athletic directors now have no control and are just working for the coach. I mean, it’s a lot to fix, but it’s fixable and I think it has to start from the top and somebody has to say “enough is enough, we are not doing this anymore,” and when whoever that brave soul is, I will stand behind them.
PG: Maybe it will be you when you go to the NCAA office.
BW: Oh gosh! I don’t know.
PG: I think those are all the questions I got.
BW: That was awesome, thank you.
PG: I appreciate you coming on the show, and if you want to tell people where to find you on social media?
BW: My Twitter and Instagram handle are the same. So it’s @Brittany_MSgirl, ‘MS’ as in Mississippi, so @Brittany_MSgirl is my Twitter and Instagram following name. I have a Facebook fan page, I also have a website BrittanyWagner.com.
PG: Gotcha, thank you!
BW: Thank you!