NCAA Cracks Down On Iowa Swimmers’ T-Shirt Business

Two University of Iowa swimmers found out the hard way just how seriously the NCAA takes its policy regarding college athletes using their own names, photos or athletic links to promote their own business.

Hawkeye seniors Chris Dawson and Tom Rathbun launched their own t-shirt screening business earlier this year entitled Trailheads Apparel, complete with a GoFundMe page that garnered $645 in contributions in just its first 2 days. However, the NCAA compliance alarm was almost immediately sounded as the fundraising page included the student-athletes’ names and bios, including a bit about how Dawson and Rathbun met each other while swimming at Iowa.

The connection to a collegiate sport was thereby established, leading to the Iowa AD contacting the athletes with ineligibility news. The swimmers were conscious about not intentionally violating any NCAA compliance rules, with Dawson saying, “We tried our best not to put anything about swimming in it.”

Nevertheless, changes had to be made at Iowa’s request, including the athletes’ names, photos and any Iowa-related reference being removed from the Trailheads Apparel website. The founders now only identify themselves as ‘Rocky and Slide’.

The experience points to the ever-present conundrum of student-athletes attempting to earn income within the confines of NCAA regulations. The collegiate powers-that-be continue to push the narrative that athletes’ education as sufficient compensation for the revenues brought in via their respective sports.

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Ed P

It’s only legal if the NCAA keeps all the money….




That’s a really bad comparison, these people are given a free education at some of the best schools in the world, they also don’t get whipped and raped

Steve Nolan

But who gets the products of their labor? The workers? Or the owners?

That’s right, y’all, capitalism is slavery. (OOH LOOGIT ME I BROADENED IT.)

Sucks but reality... reality

Terrible. Terrible


Yo I’m with you on that. This is deeper than just swimming. Its the pharma/ food/ university capatalistic corporational feeder system thats selling everybody a nice big ticket to a happy secure life and then giving everybody cancer, taking all the earth’s resources, and then bringing huge profit margins back to thier fancy houses.

Swimming is great! University? Especially in America? No. Its a biiiig SCAM.


That’s not capitalism, that’s cronyism. There’s a difference and often gets combined together.


Considering men’s swimming at the D1 level receives only 9 scholarships, I doubt either of these guys had a full ride… if anything substantial at all. My D1 college team has 30+ guys on it. How many of us do you think actually receive scholarship? The things that the NCCA restricts is ridiculous. They served their purpose in the 1950s.


They are doing things the same way as DIII. Most of those guys get academic scholarships too. If they were only handing out athletic scholarships, the teams would be tiny and DIII swimming would be nearly nonexistent.


I agree slavery is not the best comparison, but I would argue these swimmers are not getting a free education. There are few are on a full ride, but with lack of money in swimming most of these athletes are paying the full amount for their education as everyone else. If they are creative and willing to attempt to make some outside income via a tshirt business then so be it. I think this is a case the NCAA should stay out of, a little ridiculous if you ask me. Dont go after some college swimmers trying to do something productive and focus on others things like UNC and U of L basketball train wrecks that the NCAA has not… Read more »

Swim parent

Whether anyone agrees or not, it’s an NCAA rule. They were extremely stupid using their real names. The slavery comments are ridiculous, too. No one is forcing them to be on the swim team.


Kinda like how share cropping was such a “good deal” for the people??


Not all college athletes get full rides and many of them still have to take massive student loans.

Bruce D

Men’s swimming gets 9.9 scholarships to distribute amongst the team. Neither swimmer here is close to a full ride. They quickly made changes and are contributing members to the team and entrepreneurs to boot. Good for them, they learned a ton about business and staying within the guidelines! That is what life is about, learn and move forward.


The majority of D1 swimmers are not given a free education. Many are on a partial scholarship or are a preferred walk on receiving no scholarship. Very few have a full ride scholarship. Many of the full ride scholarships go to foreign exchange students. The financial burden D1 athletes bear is real. Training 20+ hours a week and then taking 14-18 credit hours per semester. A normal student with out scholarship would take that training time and find a part-time job. See the link below to see the average size team and how many actual scholarships are available per D1 team.


I doubt they both had a free ride. Granted I don’t know their situation but there is limited scholarships available and hardly anyone gets a full, it’s usually divided between multiple swimmers.


Ask me about my $130,000 of student debt from a Division 1 school and then tell me that swimmers get free education.

Eddie Rowe

Maybe not a great school choice for you.


Some aren’t getting a full ride, just a partial scholarship, and need to work to earn extra funds.


How many swimmers are given a free education just because of swimming


You’ve obviously never had a swimmer in college. Rhe scholarships they get *might* cover 60% of their education IF they swim through their senior year. These kids were not trying to make money off their swimming careers. I would think the ncaa has bigger fish tp fry.

Sucks but reality... reality

That is terrible. How could you even compare the two? Don’t swim then!!! You are a terrible person for saying and comparing the two. Shameful.


A link to buy one of these T shirts? Would love to support these guys.



About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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