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With NIL needs ‘starting to crystallize,’ Swarm Collective asks for more support from Iowa Athletics
Iowa AD Gary Barta believes ‘only real difference’ is around sharing donor information
NASHVILLE — When Brad Heinrichs, a full-time actuary, first added founding Iowa’s name, image and likeness collective to his list of responsibilities, there still were some unknowns.
At the time of the launch, Heinrichs “didn't really have a sense at that point” of exactly how much funding would be necessary.
Now, a little more than five months into the operation, what the Swarm needs for Iowa to be competitive in its revenue sports is “starting to crystallize.”
“Ultimately, we’re going to need $10 million a year to be competitive,” Heinrichs said in a phone call with The Gazette. “We may not get there, but it’s my responsibility to get us as close to there as I possibly can.”
With the collective “probably about 25 percent of the way there” in fundraising, Heinrichs has been pushing publicly and privately for more support from Iowa Athletics.
“Up until today ... Iowa Athletics hasn’t been doing as much to help us out as other athletic departments are helping out their collectives,” Heinrichs said earlier this week.
The money the Swarm raises goes to participating football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball athletes in exchange for community service via name, image and likeness deals.
Heinrichs has requested access to Iowa’s season ticket holder and contributor databases, but Iowa has not agreed to do so.
“I can tell you, in talking with other collectives across the country, that it has been paramount to their success,” Heinrichs said.
Barta said in an open letter to fans those databases “are never released directly to a third party” and reiterated that to reporters Friday.
“I’ve talked to a lot of ADs around the country,” Barta said. “I still haven’t heard one school that has done that, and I’ve heard from plenty of season ticket holders and donors that say, ‘You better not give away my personal information.’”
Barta believes the “only real difference” in opinion between Iowa Athletics and the Swarm is “me (not) turning over the personal information of our season ticket holders and our donors.”
But that point appears to be a difference in opinion as well.
Iowa has “hesitations or legal concerns about fully supporting us,” Heinrichs said, because the collective is not compliant with Title IX.
Providing support for all men’s and women’s athletes is “above and beyond the scope for which we’re capable of providing,” Heinrichs said.
Barta acknowledged Friday the Swarm legally does not need to comply with Title IX although Iowa Athletics must “make sure we’re offering as much fairness to men and women as we can.”
As for what support Iowa would be able to provide a Title IX-compliant collective that it cannot do now, Barta said he does not “know that there’s a lot of difference.”
Heinrichs’ public push for more support from Iowa Athletics already has had an impact.
Barta, days after Heinrichs first drew attention to the lack of support, penned an open letter to fans this week discussing collectives and thanking the Swarm.
After thanking Heinrichs, Barta also thanked “every Hawkeye who has chosen to contribute to and/or support the SWARM” in the letter.
Barta’s open letter was a “big first step in the right direction,” Heinrichs said.
“Hopefully that will begin the process of creating awareness,” Heinrichs said.
The letter also details ways Iowa Athletics already supports the collective, including through videos by head coaches that have been or will be released encouraging fans to support the collective.
The Swarm has needed to pay for much of the existing support from Iowa Athletics through a corporate sponsorship.
The NCAA’s updated guidance released in October allows an athletics department to promote a collective as long as the collective is “paying going rate for advertisement.”
Therefore, the Swarm, despite having shared goals with Iowa Athletics, pays for advertising in the same manner that a sponsor like Hy-Vee might pay.
“Because they became a sponsor, it does give us a little bit more latitude,” Barta said.
The NCAA does allow athletics departments to ask donors to support the collective, though, which Heinrichs would like to see.
“We’re having to pay a lot for our advertising,” Heinrichs said. “Emails are free.”
Barta said Iowa will “on occasion” send emails asking fans to support Swarm “because they’re a corporate sponsor.”
“We do that occasionally with other corporate sponsors or with the Hawkeye Fan Shop,” Barta said.
Heinrichs, a former Iowa golfer, has not given himself any salary for his work leading the collective and has personally donated significantly to it.
The consequences of any hesitancy to support the collective could have a cost for Iowa’s football and basketball programs.
Heinrichs said he has heard, either directly or indirectly, from Iowa athletes who are considering transferring because of name, image and likeness.
“If we're not able to fundraise at a level that is competitive with other collectives across the country, the product on the field will suffer,” Heinrichs said.