Minnesota student-athletes enjoy brand under new NCAA rules

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For just $ 10, Parker Fox, a University of Minnesota basketball player, will sell you a personalized video. He started supporting local businesses on his Instagram. The 6-foot-8 forward is even making deals with campus restaurants to promote his name – “Parker Fox Loaded Tater Tots” will soon be on the menu at Sally’s Saloon.

Fox said he has made nearly $ 10,000 since July from more than a dozen such deals. The Gophers male basketball player is one of dozens of U student-athletes who have taken advantage of their brand since the NCAA began allowing college athletes to use their Name, Image and Likeness (NIL).

“It has helped my personal savings a lot,” said Parker, who has a bachelor’s degree in sports marketing and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sports management. “One day the basketball will stop bouncing and I must have some money in my bank account.”

While varsity sports superstars such as wrestler U Gable Steveson and University of Connecticut girls basketball player Paige Bueckers grabbed the headlines with top-notch sponsorship deals, the athletes whose name is lesser known are also making money through everything from social media influence to autograph signing, modeling and sports camps. It is the start of a new era for college athletes, who can earn money to pay for living expenses and save while gaining valuable marketing skills that can be applied to their careers.

The NCAA’s historic July 1 policy allows college athletes to earn money through a variety of services and activities, as long as they report any offers to their schools.

At the U, the Gophers athletes signed a total of 150 NIL agreements between July 1 and November 8, according to data obtained by the Star Tribune. Football players accounted for around a third of transactions.

Steveson, the U wrestler and Olympic gold medalist, signed the most lucrative deal of all the Golden Gophers. He will join WWE, the popular professional wrestling circuit, full time after completing his senior wrestling season for Minnesota. He will be featured in WWE commercials and will benefit from his name, image and likeness during his final season at the U.

The university has supported the ambitions of its athletes. Gophers football coach PJ Fleck called the new NIL rules “huge,” noting that the Twin Cities have “businesses galore” that players can partner with. Men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson has said he “totally agrees”.

Colleges can’t help athletes make deals, said U senior associate athletic director Mike Wierzbicki. But the university’s athletics department has brought in a consultant to teach student-athletes about contracts, financial literacy and other topics that will help them navigate the deals.

The department provides athletes with professional photos to include in their online profiles, Wierzbicki said, and it identifies athletes in posts on university social media accounts to boost name recognition.

The University of Saint-Thomas is also help his athletes build their profiles on social networks and better understand the NIL rules.

“It’s really name recognition and social following,” Wierzbicki said. “Just because you’re the playmaker or the starting quarterback doesn’t mean you’re the most marketable student-athlete. “

Emma Carpenter, a U golfer who has 22,000 Instagram followers, said she signed her first name, picture and likeness contract in August. She promotes a golf range finder, which helps estimate shot distance, from Pinned Golf on her Instagram and earns a commission on sales.

But Carpenter said she was worried about making too many deals because some companies might try to “take advantage of the naivety of many young athletes.” She also doesn’t want to flood her social media account with sponsored posts. Carpenter is studying broadcast journalism in hopes of becoming a sports presenter and wants her social media to stay authentic.

“I’m looking more to showcase an image that will last and evolve into a career in the future,” she said.

Makayla Pahl, goaltender for the Gophers’ women’s hockey team, said she hired an executive team to help her find deals while she focused on her sport and school. So far, she has signed an agreement with Next College Student Athlete, an organization that connects intermediate and high school athletes with college coaches. She will be paid $ 1,000 to make three short TikTok videos promoting the company.

“It’s huge for me,” Pahl said. “My family, we didn’t grow up with a lot of money.”

Pahl noted that most student-athletes only have time to work in the summer because their sports and classes keep them busy the rest of the year.

“The scholarship we get is used to pay the rent, and other than that we don’t have any money left,” Pahl said of the student-athletes. “To be able to get paid for our name, image and likeness is huge and honestly builds you up for the rest of your life.”

U men’s hockey forward Sammy Walker took the NIL opportunity to do something he’s always dreamed of: starting his own youth hockey camp.

More than 60 children attended the first Sammy Walker Hockey Camp at Richfield in August, Walker said. They did drills, games and team building drills and also had fun off the ice, playing dodge ball, kickball, and going to a nearby water park. Registration is already open for next year’s camp.

“I don’t really care about trying to sign the big endorsement deals,” Walker said. “I just think it’s a way of having fun and giving back to the community and letting the kids go to a camp where they hopefully have fun.”

Luke Loewe, a goalie with the men’s basketball team, is always looking for the right deal – but not necessarily for something basketball related. Loewe is an aspiring professional fisherman and has said he would like to promote fishing companies as a Big Ten athlete.

“I would love to combine the two, my love of bass fishing and basketball,” Loewe said. “If there are any marine shops or boat shops that want to make a NIL deal with me, I try to buy a boat for the spring fishing season,” he said with a laugh.

Athliance CEO Peter Schoenthal believes the NIL deals will benefit athletes in the long run. But he urges colleges, businesses, and gamers to be careful, as it’s unclear which deals are allowed and which could violate NCAA policies or even state laws. The NCAA has called on Congress to create federal legislation regulating the agreements.

“It’s a whole new space. We’ve been five months into something that’s going to be here forever, and that makes it the wild west,” said Schoenthal, whose company has designed software that helps schools to check their athletes’ offers. “You don’t want to see [athletes] take advantage of where they are led down a path where they make deals that violate rules at the federal, state or university level for someone else’s benefit. “

Because at the end of the day, Schoenthal said, “if anyone is wrong, the only person who loses eligibility is the student athlete.”


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