116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Brad Heinrichs has to walk a fine line.
The founder of Iowa Swarm — the name, image and likeness collective supporting Hawkeye athletes — and his staff on one hand have to follow NCAA rules that prohibit using NIL as a recruiting inducement.
On the other hand, Swarm needs to put Iowa in a position to be competitive in the transfer portal, which has a growing role in how college football rosters are built.
“It’s really tough,” Heinrichs told The Gazette in a phone call Friday. “What’s difficult is that we see other schools maybe not following the rules to the letter that we’re trying to.”
Memberships allow Swarm to give athletes from football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball monthly stipends in exchange for volunteering in the community.
Then there is the corporate wing of the collective, Swarm Inc., which offers a gateway for businesses to partner with Iowa athletes on NIL deals. Heinrichs used wanting Kris Murray to advertise for his actuarial firm as a hypothetical example of what Swarm Inc. can facilitate.
While NCAA rules prohibit schools from using NIL to lure players to a school, there are legal ways for Swarm Inc. to ensure NIL opportunities are there for a player like Cade McNamara, the former Michigan quarterback who committed to Iowa this week.
“I couldn’t go to a business and say, ‘Do you want to sponsor Cade McNamara?’ before he’s even here,” Heinrichs said. “I can say, ‘Are you interested in a marketing deal with the first-string quarterback next year?’"
But again, Heinrichs has to walk the “really difficult” fine line of ensuring opportunities without inducing an athlete.
“All we can really showcase is the strength of our NIL program, what we’re currently doing,” Heinrichs said. “And he’s got to trust that we’re going to have a situation set up for him to where he can profit on his name, image and likeness as the first-string quarterback at Iowa.”
McNamara’s commitment has highlighted the importance of the collective, and Iowa fans have already taken notice. More than 200 people signed up for memberships on Swarm’s website since McNamara’s commitment Thursday evening, pushing the overall number of members past 500.
“And I expect that to continue to snowball as we move forward now that the word is starting to get out,” Heinrichs said.
More fan memberships mean more NIL money for all athletes in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, including any transfer portal additions.
Swarm’s corporate arm does not “have that traction” for the future first-string wide receiver as it did for the future first-string quarterback yet, though.
“A wide receiver doesn’t probably generate nearly as much interest as the quarterback would,” Heinrichs said. “The quarterback is probably the biggest lightning rod of a football team. … Quarterback is an easy one. Other skill players, it’s not the same.”