Name, Image, Likeness: a new era for college athletes

Iowa student-athletes have been capitalizing off name, image, and likeness under new NCAA guidelines.


Jenna Galligan

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon passes to guard Joe Wieskamp during the Iowa men’s basketball game against the Southern University Jaguars at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Bohannon dealt with hip issues during previous seasons and is back this year after two hip surgeries. The Hawkeyes defeated the Jaguars 103-76 in their first game against them since 2017.

Jordan Bohannon has been advocating for name, image, and likeness rights for college athletes since 2019.

At the NCAA Tournament that season, the now-sixth-year men’s basketball senior stole an NCAA March Madness rug from the Nationwide Arena locker room in Columbus, Ohio, and said on Twitter, “Give us the ability to make money off our own name and we’ll give you your rug back. You have 24 hours, @NCAA.”

The new guidelines ended up taking over two years. But as of July 1, all NCAA Division I, II, and III student-athletes can profit off their name, image, and likeness.

“This is an important day for college athletes since they all are now able to take advantage of name, image, and likeness opportunities,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “With the variety of state laws adopted across the country, we will continue to work with Congress to develop a solution that will provide clarity on a national level. The current environment — both legal and legislative — prevents us from providing a more permanent solution and the level of detail student-athletes deserve.”

Twenty states currently have passed specific laws set to legalize NIL for student-athletes. As of July 1, 10 of them went into effect. Iowa was not one of them, as its NIL law died in the legislature this past spring.

But under the NCAA’s interim policy, college student-athletes from any state are permitted to profit off their name, image, and likeness without violating NCAA rules.

The NCAA waived the “amateur” status for student athletes in the interim policy. Emmert said the policy will stay in place until there is a federal law or a new NCAA rule.

Now, student-athletes can use a professional service for NIL activities — including a third-party agent, marketing consultant, brand management company, or attorney.

The compensation from NIL deals will not alter a student-athlete’s NCAA financial aid, but it could impact qualification for need-based grants from the university, state, or federal government, including Pell grants.

“I think the biggest misconception with [NIL] is a lot of people think it’s pay-for-play or the universities paying the student-athletes,” Iowa women’s basketball’s All-American Caitlin Clark said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Iowan. “So, I think that’s kind of where all that [misconception] starts and really it’s completely not that. They’re gonna have to pay taxes on the money they make, just like every other regular human being, so it’s not like they’re getting an advantage there either.”

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But under the NCAA’s interim policy, student-athletes are not allowed to engage in pay-to-play or impermissible inducements.

Brands cannot pay athletes based on athletic performance — for example, $10 for every field goal made in a basketball game.

NIL deals also cannot be contingent on a prospective student-athlete committing to a specific school, and they cannot be paid for work not performed. Colleges and universities are not allowed to pay student-athletes for athletic participation or achievement.

As Iowa does not have a specific law in place regarding NIL for student-athletes, the UI was tasked with coming up with legal guidelines for Hawkeyes.

Throughout the year, committees from the UI Tippie College of Business, the College of Law, and UI Compliance have been working to set optimal rules for student-athletes.

“Iowa doesn’t have a law right now on NIL, but the NCAA did say they would not punish students in states that don’t have laws,” Clark said. “So it’s really up to the university to put down their guidelines and that’s really what [compliance meetings] were about, what our guidelines would be, which are really similar to state laws.”

Even before the NCAA officially announced its new NIL rules on June 30, Iowa’s athletic department announced FLIGHT on June 25 — educational programming for Hawkeye student-athletes in the new age of NIL.

“As we navigate this new era of college athletics and Name, Image, Likeness, we are fully committed to supporting our student-athletes throughout the process,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said in a June 25 release. “Our FLIGHT program equips them with the tools and knowledge to build their personal brands, allowing them to be at the forefront of NIL opportunities.”

RELATED: University of Iowa announces Name, Image, Likeness program FLIGHT

Student-athletes went through compliance meetings on June 30 to prepare for the NIL change. In those meetings, they learned the rules and logistics of NIL, including how to use INFLCR — an app for Hawkeyes to learn how to utilize NIL opportunities.

“Iowa’s been working on [name, image, and likeness] for over a year,” Clark said. “I think that’s a lot longer than some universities. Some universities are panicking now because they don’t have much in place, they haven’t partnered with another third party so athletes can report what activities they’re doing or whatnot, so I would say we’re a step ahead.”

The FLIGHT program will oversee educational programming for all student-athletes — those looking to utilize NIL opportunities will have access to training in branding, social media, entrepreneurship, networking, and finance through INFLCR+.

Clark said all Hawkeye student-athletes will log their branding opportunities through INFLCR. The app will then continue to track the deals to ensure it is in compliance with UI and NCAA regulations.

“Iowa’s paying a good chunk of money for them to run our NIL stuff,” Clark said. “We’ll be reporting every deal [on INFLCR] and things like that through there. But there are also things like an education section, so if you have any questions or anything you can go through there, and there will be videos. I honestly think it’s really big, there’s a few universities that are either partnering with INFLCR or OpenDoors, which is another big one.”

Through the FLIGHT program, the Iowa athletic department has the philosophy of “Empower, Educate, and Take Flight.” The comprehensive NIL program will ensure Hawkeye student-athletes have ample resources to capitalize on earning potential.

“I think Iowa’s actually a step ahead from other universities, which is honestly really good,” Clark said. “They’ve been really good about educating our student-athletes and giving them a lot of resources to learn, because not every student-athlete really knows what name, image, and likeness is.”

 As July 1 rolled around, many Iowa student-athletes jumped at the chance to profit off of their name, image, and likeness.

Barstool Sports started a new venture of its business — Barstool Athletes Inc. designed to sponsor and support student-athletes.

A litany of Hawkeye athletes have already signed up to be Barstool Athletes, including baseball players Dylan Nedved, Drew Irvine, Trenton Wallace, and Duncan Davitt. Multiple Iowa wrestlers also signed up for the sponsorship, including Jaydin Eierman, Alex Marinelli, Max Murin, and Michael Kemerer.

Three-time national champion wrestler Spencer Lee, along with being a Barstool Athlete, partnered with The Players Trunk to release his first line of merchandise on July 2.

Hawkeye football junior wide receiver Tyrone Tracy announced he joined YOKE gaming, a platform for fans to play video games with athletes.

“We are honored to be a part of history,” YOKE gaming said in an Instagram post July 1. “Today, thousands of college student-athletes will begin being properly compensated through their endorsement deals with YOKE. As college athletes who launched this social network for gaming, we are excited to be a catalyst for change.”

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Bohannon announced a Patreon for the second season of his podcast — The Standpoint. With the Patreon, Bohannon and co-host Zack Cohen are charging a monthly subscription fee ranging from $5 to $10 to unlock exclusive content.

For his first NIL venture, Bohannon partnered with BOOMINIowaFireworks to sign autographs and enter a raffle on July 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Bohannon also released a line of merchandise, with his first drop coming at midnight on July 1.

Other Iowa athletes — including Bohannon, men’s basketball players Patrick and Connor McCaffery, and Hawkeye football quarterback Spencer Petras — have signed up for VIDSIG.

VIDSIG is a video chat company that allows fans to pay to connect one-on-one with various famous actors, athletes, and influencers.

A going rate for Bohannon on VIDSIG is $40 for five minutes and $85 for 10 minutes.

“It’s a huge opportunity for athletes,” Iowa men’s basketball sophomore Keegan Murray said. “There’s a lot of talk with Jordan and his leadership in this. But I think there’s gonna be a lot of opportunity for athletes to build themselves, especially with big influencers. Now you see in the college game right now, I just think that they will be able to expand their brand leading into their professional careers.”

But while his teammates quickly capitalize on the new NIL rules, Murray is opting to learn more about his options before he makes any branding decisions.

“There’s gonna be a lot of opportunities,” Murray said. “It’s just branding yourself on social media, or just bringing yourself into the different companies. I think, me, I need to learn more about it. I don’t really want to jump right into an NIL or just jump in every opportunity I can get. I want to be able to manage myself and have the best image that I have on everyone else.”

Clark — one of Iowa’s most prominent student-athletes — also does not have current plans for utilizing NIL rules but has an email open in her Twitter biography for business inquiries.

“I don’t think there’s really a rush for me to sign a contract or really engage with companies until I’m really sure what I want to do,” Clark said. “I have had a lot of people saying, ‘Caitlin make merch, Caitlin do this, I want a Caitlin Clark jersey,’ so maybe down the road.”

“Obviously, my first priority is school and basketball,” Clark added. “Like, that’s why I came here in the first place. I want to take this team to a Final Four, and that’s still my focus. And the reason you have these off court opportunities is because of what you do on the court, so I just take performance as my biggest thing.”

In the new age of NIL, the most successful athletes on and off the court will make the most money. So, the Hawkeye women’s basketball coaching staff stressed maintaining priorities with their team.

“The things we just caution our team about is basketball and academics are first and foremost,” Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder said. “And if you’re not good in those two areas, no one’s going to want your image or likeness anyway. So, do the best you can on the floor, off the floor, and that’ll probably make you a little bit more marketable.”