IOWA CITY, IOWA -- Caitlin Clark is a sophomore basketball player for the University of Iowa.
“I started playing basketball before I could even remember,” Clark said.
The next three years of basketball will be very different for Clark and other student-athletes. For the first time in NCAA history, college athletes across the country can now capitalize off their name, image, and likeness, or NIL, just like a professional athlete.
“Pretty much using your name to make money whether it’s commercials, advertisements, if a company wants to have them post on their social media – like an ad or something like that,” Clark said.
Knowing the change was likely to happen soon, the University of Iowa has spent the past year developing an NIL program called FLIGHT. Lyla Clerry is the associate athletics director for compliance.
“Previously they really could only use their name, image, and likeness if it was associated with their educational institution, or for a nonprofit entity," Clerry said. "So they would not be able to use their name, image, and likeness for any type of endorsement or promotion, and they could not receive compensation for such.”
If a student wasn’t compliant with those NCAA rules, it would threaten their eligibility to play. That’s no longer a concern, but now students are navigating a new realm. FLIGHT equips Iowa student-athletes with the educational training necessary to strengthen their NIL potential.
“So it could include something about branding – how do I best brand myself," Clerry said. "It can include things about finance, ya know, financial literacy – what do I need to know about being a CEO of basically my own business.”
Universities across the country are providing athletes with tools through programs like FLIGHT because they're not allowed to help them get NIL opportunities directly.
Clark says it’ll be a learning process for everybody. She still has lots of questions, but she’s thrilled about what’s ahead.
“I think commercials, I think ads on social media will definitely be two of the biggest for me,” Clark said.
When it comes to college athletes making a profit off their name – the opportunities are limitless.
University of Iowa basketball player Jordan Bohannon partnered with a fireworks store for a meet-and-greet and a chance for people to win a pair of his game-winning shoes.
University of Nebraska volleyball player Lexi Sun started her own apparel line.
Auburn University quarterback Bo Nix signed a deal with a sweet tea manufacturing company.
Right now, there’s no cap to the amount of money they can bring in.
“It can be everything from a spokesperson for a business or commercial entity, to being a social media influencer, to selling their autographs," Clerry said. "Cameo videos have become very popular – somebody pays for you to send a video message whether it’s a birthday message or congratulations message to somebody.”
Clark says she’s already been made some offers, but no contracts have been signed yet. She says she plans to be very intentional with the opportunities she chooses to pursue.
“The biggest thing for me is, I didn’t want to say ‘yes’ to everybody because that’s not really who I am and what I want to represent," Clark said.
"I want to make sure I’m aligning with the right people and doing my research. It’s almost like a business now and that’s kind of how you think and so that’s kind of the approach I’ve taken to it.”