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Hawkeye non-revenue athletes struggle in the first few weeks of NIL

While new NIL rules can make millions for the biggest stars in college sports, other athletes are getting creative to take advantage of the new laws.

Hannah Kinson

Iowa striker Leah Zellner gets the ball into play in the fourth quarter of the semi-finals of the Big Ten field hockey tournament against No. 1 Michigan on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at Grant Field. Five minutes before the game, Iowa withdrew its goalkeeper to replace the position with another player on offense. The Hawkeyes were defeated 0-2 by the Wolverines. Michigan will compete against Ohio state number 7 in the championships on Saturday.

Many Hawkeyes have benefited from their name, image, and likeness by selling merchandise, signing autographs, and signing advertising contracts since the NCAA allowed such behavior in early July. At least those who already had a following.

Iowa wrestler and three-time national champion Spencer Lee partnered with Ironside Style Apparel at Cedar Rapids to sell exclusive merchandise, and Hawkeye Football wide receiver Tyrone Tracy Jr. hosted an event at Graze Restaurant in Iowa City to sign autographs .

While Lee and Tracy already have names in the Iowa City community, Hawkeye undergraduate athletes in non-income sports find it more difficult 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 senior field hockey Leah Zellner. “A lot of us don’t have fans like soccer or basketball players, but I know some people who know work [toward an endorsement]. “

Lee has 113,000 followers on Instagram and an average of over 20,000 likes per post, while Zellner has around 1,600 Instagram followers.

But Hawkeye athletes in softball, field hockey, soccer, and cross country can still benefit from naming, image, and image rights – whether in advertisements for smaller businesses or as brand influencers.

Many Hawkeyes have become Barstool Athletes – a program launched by Barstool Sports, a digital media company specializing in sports and pop culture. Different universities have different Barstool accounts, including Barstool Hawkeyes.

CONNECTED: Name, image, likeness: a new era for college athletes

Student-athletes in all sports in Iowa are now barstool athletes, including Lee, sophomore softball student Sammy Diaz, senior men’s basketball connor McCaffery, and senior women’s soccer player Skylar Alward.

Since the new NIL rules only just came into effect on July 1st, Hawkeye student athletes are considering their options in the first month of the new possibilities.

Iowa Athletics launched a comprehensive naming, image, and likeness program called 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 all deals fit into university guidelines.

“I did not’ [engaged in NIL deals] nevertheless, because it is still fairly new, ”said Zellner. “And I think a lot of us were still thinking about it and learning about it, so we’re still compliant… We both study as we go, but the university is here to help us and we were already the rules on call go through. “

Social media has become popular with influencers making money from branded businesses and advertising, and Iowa athletes who practice both sales and no-sales sports can use this to their advantage.

Some Hawkeye athletes, like women’s football captain Sara Wheaton, don’t use social media often. Wheaten said she had no desire to use the new NIL rules to gain a following and make money through advertising revenue.

“I have TikTok and that’s about it, so personally I won’t be doing any of that,” Wheaton said. “But I know there are girls on the team who are interested in using social media to reach and build their brands.”

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