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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4 years ago

A little late on this discussion I understand, but I am currently a swimmer with a business I have started. Anybody know where to find the particular document and the particular rule that these athletes broke? I am trying to stay safe with my own swimming future.

Reply to  entrepreneur
4 years ago

entrepreneur – if you’re unsure, best bet would be to check with your compliance department. The NCAA rules are frequently determined more by interpretation than strict legislation.

4 years ago

Great PR. Thanks for making this a controversy. ChaChing. Brilliant.

4 years ago

This points to a bigger problem; how do non-revenue sport athletes like these two pay for the rest of their college expenses AND spending money? Yes, well, there are limits to those especially if you are a student-athlete. I think these guys should be commended for having the courage to start a business. See, that’s the difference here; they took a risk and they started a business. A traditional student would be heralded for doing this. Anyone else, any regular, traditional student, would be able to put their name on their website and their bio without anyone caring. The NCAA is always talking about how student-athletes aren’t supposed to receive any preferential treatment but they never say say that the… Read more »

Reply to  SwimCoachDad
4 years ago

They should quit. Obviously theyre smart enough to make money, they won’t need thier special piece of paper to get work. Use extra time that theyd be in school to keep training with the team, get really fast and then help Katinka and Co start that pro league so we can all be done with degrees and NCAAs and bathtubs too!

Bruce D
4 years ago

What the article fails to mention is that 15% of revenues are donated to the Red Cross and that the company was founded on the love of outdoor activities. They ultimately raised 2,500 from GofundMe and are the only employees. The NCAS was right in this case to have them remove their names but both are Academic All B1G students and are great kids.

4 years ago

You sign a contract allowing the NCAA and school you attemd to use your image rights. As well as a form that states you will not use your status as a NCAA athlete for profit. Is it right? No, but the boys broke a very obvious rule.

4 years ago

Meanwhile, the NCAA pulled in over $1B from the Final Four TV rights this year. Seems fair to me.

an M fan
4 years ago

NCAA is corrupt as f.

Human Ambition
4 years ago

As I can see the rule was very clear. Just like Dressel, Manziel or Steve Prefontaine they must wait until they “go pro” to be connected with business. The guys must have missed it. Best of Luck.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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