Blue White Illustrated

September 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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5 2 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M E D I T O R I A L MATT HERB W as there ever any doubt that quar- terbacks were going to be the big- gest beneficiaries of the NCAA's decision to ease up on its amateurism rules and let athletes profit off their col- legiate fame? If so, those doubts were most likely dispelled when Nick Saban revealed over the summer that Alabama's projected starter, Bryce Young, had lined up nearly $1 million in deals without ever having started a game for the Crimson Tide. Or maybe they were dispelled when Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler signed on to endorse the national fried chicken chain Raising Cane's. Or when five-star Ohio State recruit Quinn Ewers revealed that he was going to skip his entire senior year of high school in order to enroll early in Columbus and start cashing in on a col- lege career that originally wasn't sup- posed to begin until 2022. That's the way it's going to go as a new era of college athletics dawns. Offense doesn't just sell tickets anymore. These days, it also sells chicken fingers. But just because there's a pile of money out there for quarterbacks doesn't mean that other kinds of athletes don't stand to benefit, too. It doesn't even mean that the cash flow will be restricted to athletes in the big money- making sports. When Penn State announced in early July that it was launching a program called "STATEment" to help its athletes navigate this new world of marketing and brand-building, it didn't just quote head football and basketball coaches James Franklin and Micah Shrewsberry in its news release. It also quoted women's basketball coach Carolyn Kieger, softball coach Clarisa Crowell, men's golf coach Greg Nye and track/cross country coach John Gondak. When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf traveled to State College in July for a news conference extolling the benefits of the new NIL law that had recently made it through the state legislature, the attendees included not just the football team's pass-catch combo, senior quar- terback Sean Clifford and senior wide receiver Jahan Dotson, but women's basketball forward Anna Camden and women's soccer forward Ally Schlegel. And when the first wave of endorse- ment deals were announced in July, Penn State's contingent of pitch people included Camden, as well as women's la- crosse players Erin Triandafils and Syd- ney Wolfington, and women's hockey player Mikayla Lantto. To those whose focus never strays far from the high-profile spectator sports, it might seem surprising to see nonrevenue teams so well represented on the list of early NIL beneficiaries. But there's a reason why that list doesn't consist entirely of football and men's basketball players. It's because the fragmented nature of the internet has given any athlete in any sport the ability to build the kind of following that an ad- vertiser somewhere might covet. There's an entire media universe that's disconnected from the one in which many fans of the revenue-producing sports re- side. It consists of social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, Twit- ter and Facebook. It dispenses content not via commercial networks but via tweets, posts, video clips and podcasts. The internet has allowed athletes to essentially run their own little media empires, and sometimes those empires aren't so little. Penn State gymnast Mi- chael Jaroh, for instance, has more than 2 million followers on TikTok. Camden, too, has a sizeable social media following, thanks in part to a You- Tube show called "Courtside With Cam- den" in which she interviews coaches and players, and offers an inside look at the life of a college athlete. On a recent show, she talked to Chris Kutz, an NIL specialist with the sports marketing company Opendorse. Kutz said that prominence isn't the only qual- ity advertisers are going to be seeking now that college athletes are free to sign endorsement contracts. "When you talk about higher-profile athletes, naturally they're going to get the headline deals," he said. "They might get national brands to work with them. But there are so many companies that are just trying to cut through the weeds and get their name out there. They're going to target an athlete who's relevant to the market they're working in, an up-and- coming athlete maybe or just an athlete who has the right followers or interests. "You've got to remember the interests. If you're posting content about healthy, active lifestyles, you might not get Lu- lulemon endorsing you, but there are lots of upstart companies that are ready to partner with you because they can see content, they see brand alignment. It doesn't matter what your sport is with some of these brands and companies." In the years ahead, don't be surprised if some of the Penn State athletes who hit it big as endorsers turn out to be shoot- ing guards or shortstops or outside hit- ters. This isn't just a quarterback's game. As Kutz told Camden, "Everyone needs to understand that when it comes to college athletes [as endorsers], it doesn't always depend on what you do on the court." ■ Women's basketball player Anna Camden has been active on social media during her time at Penn State. PHOTO COURTESY PENN STATE ATHLETICS Show Them The Money VARSITY VIEWS

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