The NCAA’s Zero Era Has Come, Something Athletes Are Ready to Capitalize on

Haley and Hannah Cavinder rose to social media stardom unexpectedly. One way to pass the time during the pandemic has now been to position Fresno State’s twin sister basketball stars as one of the most successful college-athlete entrepreneurs, as soon as the rules allow it.

Ohio State lacrosse player Michelle Pehlke has been cultivating herself online for years. When NCAA athletes are finally able to monetize their fame without compromising their qualifications, Pahlke is ready to relaunch his brand of business.

A new era in college sports began Thursday when, for the first time, athletes at the highest levels of college sports will be allowed compensation for the use of their name, image or likeness. They can make money based on their celebrity or fame without violating school, convention or NCAA rules.

The transition has been anything but smooth. More than a half-dozen states have laws that go into effect Thursday designed to open the market to athletes and prevent the NCAA from interfering. The NCAA is on board with the idea of ​​reforming its zero rules, but change has come slowly and strangely. At some point Congress is expected to step in and provide a law that brings uniformity across the country.

Despite the uncertainty, the doors of the college athlete market are about to open and some of them are ready to cash in immediately.

“I’m going to do as much as I can on that first day and just keep the train running,” said Pahlke, whose YouTube channel has more than 14,600 subscribers. “But I think just figuring out what I want to do and then working it out with my compliance liaison to see if it’s all right, and then getting everything ready for July 1st.” , and then run on the ground.”

The Cawinders are 5-foot-6 identical twins who posted the same state lines as sophomores for Fresno State last season. Healy was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer with 19.8 points per game, while Hanna averaged 17. Haley was the Mountain West Player of the Year.

Cavinder is good enough to contemplate a potential pro career, but he’s also the perfect example of how a zero market would be a boon to high-profile schools with far more than just star quarterbacks and point guards.

Athletic achievement is only one small piece of the puzzle. In a world where anyone with a smart phone can be a content creator, TikTok videos of Cawinders that often mix dancing and basketball have really caught on.

As the views and followers hit the millions, Haley and Hanna learned that their videos could go beyond family bonding during the quarantine. Icon Source, a company that connects brands and athletes through an app, said wireless communications brand Boost Mobile plans to offer Cawinders a deal on Thursday.

“We’ve found that you can monetize all your accounts, and you can make a profit from them, and then partnering with brands is a really cool, eye-opening thing to do,” said Hanna from her home in Gilbert. Said on a Zoom call, Arizona.

“We never knew this could be a thing,” Haley said.

Blake Lawrence is the CEO of Opendorse, one of a handful of companies working with dozens of schools on NIL programming and education. He added that the estimated value of a social media account can be determined by the number of followers. A tweet, for example, can fetch $10 per 1,000 followers for the account that posted it.

According to Lawrence, Instagram is closer to $20 per follower. Tiktok Followers cost from $3-$4 and YouTube Followers cost from $4-$7. Actual value is ultimately determined by engagement with posts, which companies can measure by likes, comments, retweets and shares.

Cawinders said the companies are in touch but are on alert.

“A lot of brands have reached out, but we obviously can’t work with them because of regulations and qualifications,” Hannah said.

The NCAA is close to a stopgap plan that would allow all athletes to be compensated for zero use. It is considering waiving its rules against such payments, schools will comply with state void laws where applicable, and schools will set their own policies in states with no void laws.

All the uncertainty has been a source of worry for the parents of the Cavinders, who fear that a curious move by the twins could end their eligibility.

“I know girls keep saying, ‘Oh, July 1st’ and they’re excited, but we’re still like, ‘Okay, take a break until we make sure it’s passed. ,” said Katie Cavinder.

Pahlke also said he is proceeding carefully with guidance from Ohio State and the Openadores, but expects the business he had to close when he became a college athlete in 2020.

Pahlke has been a YouTuber since high school. Not only was he already monetizing his posts, but he was selling merchandise like T-shirts and pop sockets to his fans. Between the two, Pahlke said, revenue could run into the “thousands” of dollars.

“But obviously because the (NIL) rule was not in force, I had to turn it down,” Pahlke said. “And it was devastating to me just because you put in so much work and I’m not a guy in this industry just making viral videos. Like, that’s what my life is going to be like.”

Knowing that the rules would change, he kept on pumping the ingredients first. He treats it like a job, comes third from school and has lacrosse on his list of responsibilities.

“My friends will be there. They know I set strict boundaries with them where I don’t see them until Friday nights and Saturday nights because I know it’s all going to pay off in the long run,” Pahlke said .

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez isn’t a big social media guy, but he started thinking of ways to take advantage of the changes last fall. He started a podcast with NIL in mind called Athlete Unfiltered. He also has some other ideas, like putting his name on football camps or maybe signing autographs for money.

“The opportunity is too good to pass up and thankfully we have great people here in Nebraska who have helped me break out of my comfort zone and become a content creator to some extent,” Martinez said.

Cawinders don’t know what will happen with their online stardom. They’re passionate about health and fitness, so maybe what they’ve built might help them pursue a career in that field someday?

“We still think of ourselves as just basketball players,” Haley said.

Soon, however, they will be paid for being the influencers.


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