Barta: No NCAA rules broken in Trump rally

Members+of+the+University+of+Iowa+Football+Team+shake+hands+with+Donald+Trump+at+a+political+rally+on+Tuesday%2C+Jan.+26%2C+2016+in+the+Field+House.+Trump+visited+Iowa+City+to+try+and+persuade+voters+to+caucus+for+him+next+week.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FBrooklynn+Kascel%29
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Barta: No NCAA rules broken in Trump rally

Members of the University of Iowa Football Team shake hands with Donald Trump at a political rally on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in the Field House. Trump visited Iowa City to try and persuade voters to caucus for him next week. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Members of the University of Iowa Football Team shake hands with Donald Trump at a political rally on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in the Field House. Trump visited Iowa City to try and persuade voters to caucus for him next week. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Members of the University of Iowa Football Team shake hands with Donald Trump at a political rally on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in the Field House. Trump visited Iowa City to try and persuade voters to caucus for him next week. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Members of the University of Iowa Football Team shake hands with Donald Trump at a political rally on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016 in the Field House. Trump visited Iowa City to try and persuade voters to caucus for him next week. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

Brent Griffiths, [email protected]

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Such adoration rose more than a few eyebrows on Twitter and elicited scorn from fans of another school in Ames. But on Wednesday, UI officials made it clear that no NCAA rules were violated Tuesday night when Trump spoke in front of approximately 1,900 people at the Field House.

“University of Iowa student-athletes are encouraged to participate in the political process as individuals,” Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said in a statement.

RELATED: Donald Trump hits Iowa City

“However, like any endorsement by a student or faculty member, their participation should not be considered representative of the entire team or university. “

And some of the athletes who appeared at the rally were mum on anything else.

“I don’t like to talk about politics; it’s about wrestling today,” 125-pounder Thomas Gilman said on Wednesday.

Quarterback CJ Beathard and kicker Marshall Koehn were among those present from the 12-2 Hawkeyes. Gilman appeared along with 197-pounder Nathan Burak, 184-pounder Sammy Brooks, and 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen, who represented the No. 2 wrestling team in the country.

Former Hawkeye wrestler and two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough, who also joined Trump, said he will work hard to get people to caucus for Trump during the state’s Feb. 1 caucuses.

“He isn’t just trying to shake your hand to make you happy, he respects you,” McDonough said after the rally. “He understands what you go through as an athlete, and he can connect on that level.”

UI sports-management Lecturer Dan Matheson said he would be surprised if the NCAA disagreed with the Athletics Department’s findings.

“The NCAA as an organization would face an onslaught of criticism and lawsuits from another side if they were to try to legislate against student-athletes being involved in exercising their First Amendment rights and being involved in the political process,” said Matheson, who spent nine years as an investigator for the NCAA.

While there is no specific rule protecting political involvement, he said, the rulebook would not preclude grass-roots political activities. A gray area could arise if the athletes appeared in a TV endorsement and identified themselves as Hawkeye athletes, but that was far from what happened.

Before he launched into an abbreviated 40-minute stump speech, Trump was presented with a Black and Gold jersey emblazoned with the businessman’s name and with the No. 1 by back-up tight end Peter Pekar.

Barta said the jersey was not official, and no candidate, including Trump, has asked for or received apparel or equipment from the university.

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