Hawkeye’s unpaid athletic athletes struggle through NIL’s first weeks
While the new NIL rules can net millions of college sports’ biggest stars, other athletes are getting creative to take advantage of the new laws in force.
Many Hawkeyes have taken advantage of their name, image and likeness by selling merchandise, signing autographs, and signing sponsorship deals since the NCAA began allowing such behavior in early July. At least, those who already had an audience.
Iowa wrestler and three-time national champion Spencer Lee teamed up with Ironside Style Apparel at Cedar Rapids to sell exclusive merchandise, and football catcher Hawkeye Tyrone Tracy Jr. hosted an event at Restaurant Graze in Iowa City to sign autographs.
While Lee and Tracy already have name recognition in the Iowa City community, it is more difficult for Hawkeye student-athletes in unpaid sports to achieve similar identification.
Field hockey is a popular sport in Europe, Australia, and the east coast of the United States, so only three players on the Hawkeye roster are from the Midwest. The University of Iowa is home to the state’s only Division I field hockey team.
“It’s a lot harder for us because field hockey isn’t that big in the United States, especially here in Iowa,” said field hockey senior Leah Zellner. “A lot of us don’t have a lot of followers like a football or basketball player, but there are some people I know who work [toward an endorsement]. “
Lee has 113,000 Instagram followers and averages over 20,000 likes on each post, while Zellner has approximately 1,600 Instagram followers.
But Hawkeye athletes of softball, field hockey, soccer, and cross country can still enjoy name, image, and likeness rights, whether they appear in advertisements for smaller businesses or work as brand influencers.
Many Hawkeyes have gone on to become Barstool athletes – a program started by Barstool Sports, a sports and pop culture digital media company. Different universities have different Barstool accounts, including Barstool Hawkeyes.
RELATED: Name, Image, Likeness: a new era for varsity athletes
Student-athletes of all sports in Iowa are now bar athletes, including Lee, sophomore softball Sammy Diaz, senior men’s basketball Connor McCaffery and senior women’s football Skylar Alward.
While the new NIL rules just came into effect on July 1, the Hawkeye student-athletes are still considering their options in the first month of the new opportunities.
Iowa Athletics has launched a comprehensive Name, Image, and Likeness program – named FLIGHT – to help Hawkeye student-athletes understand the inner workings of NIL. Iowa athletes also attended compliance meetings before NIL went into effect to ensure any deal fits into university policy.
” I do not have [engaged in NIL deals] again, because it’s still pretty new, ”Zellner said. “And I think a lot of us have still thought about it and learned about it, so we’re still consistent… We both learn as we go, but the university is here to help, and we have received calls already passed by the rules.
Social media has become popular with influencers who make money from branded offers and advertising, and Iowa athletes in both paid and non-paid sports can use it to their advantage.
Some Hawkeye athletes, like women’s football captain Sara Wheaton, aren’t often on social media. Wheaten said she doesn’t want to use the new NIL rules to gain audience and make money from ad revenue.
“I have TikTok and that’s about it, so I personally won’t do anything of the sort,” Wheaton said. “But I know there are girls on the team who are interested in using social media to reach and grow their brands.”