Nov 29, 2021 - News

Gophers sign social media and appearance deals under new NCAA rules

Number of University of Minnesota NIL deals, by deal type
Data: University of Minnesota; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Golden Gophers are scoring cash away from the game via appearances, social media posts and paid video shoutouts under new rules allowing student athletes to sign such deals.

Driving the news: Student athletes at the University of Minnesota's flagship campus have capitalized on their "name, image and likeness" (NIL) at least 139 times since this summer, per disclosures obtained by Axios via a public records request.

Why it matters: The NCAA's new NIL rules, which took effect July 1, let student athletes benefit financially from their college careers while they're still playing.

Zoom in: While student names are redacted, the U of M disclosures illustrate how the change in policy is playing out on campus.

  • More than 60% of the disclosures filed through the end of October involved athletes being paid or getting free merchandise in exchange for posting to Instagram or other social media accounts.

For example, a female gymnast made more than $1,000 posting photos and "informational videos" about a brand on Instagram, while a women's volleyball player received 10% commission on sales through her work as a "brand ambassador" online.

  • A women's hockey player made $850 to produce three TikTok videos.
  • Meanwhile, football and basketball players reported agreements with Cameo, a platform that allows fans to pay celebrities to make personalized video messages.

Yes, but: Appearances and autographs — both tried and true side hustles for professional and amateur athletes — are also in demand. Gophers reported 27 of such agreements through the end of October.

  • One football player was paid $100 to sign autographs and "participate in an eating contest."
  • A wrestler made more than $1,000 for a late August appearance at a redacted event.
  • In other instances, athletes disclosed receiving freebies or discounts, including a hat to $200 off a scooter, instead of cash payments.

Between the lines: It's not hard to identify some potential participants with a little social media sleuthing.

  • Wrestler Gable Steveson, who won a gold medal in Tokyo last summer, and quarterback Tanner Morgan currently sell personalized videos via Cameo. Morgan's shoutout will cost you $29-$203, while Steveson charges up to $700.
  • Gymnast Lexy Ramler, an NCAA all-around silver medalist, shared a promotion for local hat company Love Your Melon with her 7,000-plus Instagram followers in September.
  • And hockey captain Sammy Walker already rolled out a namesake youth hockey camp.

Of note: It's not just Gophers taking advantage of the change. Eleven Duluth Bulldogs and one Crookston athlete also disclosed NIL activities this fall.

The bottom line: Most Gophers don't appear to be making big bucks off their collegiate careers yet. But the cost-benefit equation could change as the market grows and educational programming helps athletes understand how to make the most of the deals.

Go Deeper: Check out the full list of disclosures.

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