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.