The MESA Foundation introduces the first of its kind approach to fundraising in collegiate athletics as it continues its focus on Community Connection


The college sporting world has been turned upside down over the last year. It’s now legal for student athletes to monetarily benefit from their “NIL,” that is, their Name, Image, and Likeness. And tales of unimaginable compensation being paid to high profile college athletes seem to dominate the headlines.

The MESA Foundation believes it has a better way.

Enter Jeff Smith, Tom Newton, and a group of loyal Aztec alumni and former athletes that bleed SDSU red and black. Their mission is to change the NIL narrative. And, of course, keep the Aztecs at the top of their game.

“NIL is here to stay, and any sports program that wants to remain competitive must respond to this reality” stated Smith, president of The MESA Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit intent on turning NIL into a positive force for San Diego. “We think we have a much better approach to NIL than others are taking. We are completely focused on community, whether that’s helping a local business or a local non-profit. MESA, our NIL, is all about student-athletes supporting our community, the heart and soul of SDSU.”

Players are compensated for their involvement, but only when it meets MESA’s high community standards. Also, unlike other collegiate programs, all players are compensated equally and inclusively, something that was a welcomed innovation to those that follow and support SDSU athletics.

Said J.D. Wicker, Athletic Director for San Diego State University, “We pride ourselves on team. We live that. So, the last thing we wanted was creating ‘have and have not’ dissention in the locker room. MESA has done an outstanding job crafting an NIL program that puts the emphasis back on ‘team’.”

Some funds are raised the traditional way, with outreach and appeal to a strong Aztec supporter base and through unique opportunities to engage with Aztec Student Athletes for those that join MESA.

But the innovative organization has also created something special: The very first collegiate fundraising app game.

Yes, you heard that right, an app game.

Called “Big Heart Trivia,” Aztec supporters play a free trivia contest, with the daily donation prize being shared between the winners’ pool and SDSU student-athletes. It’s a proverbial win-win for everyone.

“We’re the first university in the country to approach fundraising as a game,” said Tom Newton, a member of the Campanile Foundation Athletic Committee. “It’s completely innovative — the idea of getting supporters involved simply by playing a mobile app — it’s a total game-changer in college sports fundraising.”

Notable about the game is the use of Artificial Intelligence – AI – to custom create unique trivia games for each individual player’s skill level.

“Big Heart Trivia is unlike any other trivia game in the world,” added Smith. “Using AI, everyone has a chance to win. It’s a perfect extension of the spirit of the MESA Foundation, we want the entire Aztec Community involved in our future success on the court and on the field.”

Download Big Heart Trivia at the Apple App Store and use Invite Code SDSU1897 to launch the SDSU Student-Athletes Trivia Game. (An Android version will be coming soon.)

For more information on the MESA Foundation, please visit

MESA Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit
Jeff Smith

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Jeff Smith
MESA Foundation
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