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WEST DES MOINES — When the NCAA first began the process to allow collegiate athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness, not everyone was a fan right away.
That included Iowa women’s basketball head coach Lisa Bluder.
“I did not think it was a good thing a couple of years ago,” Bluder said at a luncheon with Hawkeye donors and supporters Wednesday. “I grew up in the ’70s when you didn’t get anything — you pay for your own books and all that stuff. ‘They’re getting all this, they don’t need any more’ — I was of that mindset.”
Now almost a year since athletes began profiting off their name, image and likeness, Bluder has “changed my tune on NIL completely.”
“Having lived through it for a year now, I think there’s some amazing opportunities,” Bluder said. “Why should they not be able to get money from having their own camp? Why should they not be able to make money from creating their own T-shirt or jersey or whatever?”
Bluder also sees some benefits of NIL — and athletes essentially being entrepreneurs for themselves — for life after their four or five years of Iowa basketball.
“It has been an incredible opportunity for them to learn so many business skills,” Bluder said. “They're learning how to negotiate contracts and create their own PR firms and market themselves.”
While Bluder expressed the need to ensure athletes aren’t spending so much time on NIL that it hurts their academics and athletics. There is a natural check on that.
“Quite honestly, if it takes away too much of your time, nobody's going to want them anyway,” Bluder said. “The better athlete they are, the better they're doing in school, the more people want them to be associated with their product or their company.”
For the “normal NIL person” on her team, as Bluder phrased it, the “average deal” is worth about $1,000.
“It’s not that big of a deal for most people,” Bluder said. “For most kids, they're not getting rich off of their name, image and likeness.”
Not every Hawkeye fits that “normal NIL person” category, though.
Bluder has one of the most marketable college athletes in the country on her roster in star guard Caitlin Clark.
She became the first collegiate athlete to partner with Hy-Vee, the Iowa-based grocery chain with more than 285 stores across eight states in the Midwest.
Along with selling T-shirts saying “from the logo” — a reference to the remarkable depth and accuracy of her shooting — she also has partnered with the national tax preparation company H&R Block.
“Caitlin is in a unique situation because she truly is the best college basketball player in America,” Bluder said, “and when you have that, you get some opportunities.”
Clark’s situation also is “unique,” Bluder said, because of the support system around her as she seeks NIL deals.
“Caitlin is very fortunate because she has two really grounded parents,” Bluder said. “She has a team that works for her, and it really alleviates the stress from her and the worry from her.”
That keeps her from having to be “either losing out on opportunities or trying to create these opportunities and really taking away from her basketball and her studies,” Bluder said.
“Without her parents, I don’t know what she would be doing,” Bluder said.
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