Women have faced inequality in all levels of sports for decades. That includes women in college sports. The struggle with receiving the same respect and opportunities as male athletes is a continual battle. But the recent NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) ruling is changing things at the college level.
According to sports stats from Athlete Assessments, “women make up 40% of sportspeople, however, as of 2020 they continue to only receive 4% of the total sports media coverage in print and broadcast devoted to them.” Not only is this disrespectful to their game, but the lack of media coverage also directly impacts athletes’ chances of receiving business deals and sponsorships.
This effect on sponsorship opportunity wasn’t a concern for collegiate athletes in the past. For years the NCAA forbade players to accept any kind of monetary sponsorship or compensation from brands…. That all changed in July of 2021.
Women in college sports: The NCAA ruling is changing the game
The NCAA passed an amendment to their rules in July, allowing their athletes to accept and profit from NIL (name, image, and likeness) deals. So, for the first time in history, women college athletes can take their success into their own hands and capitalize on their personal brand. That is, rather than relying on the NCAA to manage how they distribute opportunities among athletes.
One of the most natural ways to secure NIL deals from brands is to have a strong social media presence. Today’s tech-savvy and social media naturals are of college-age.
As a result, many college athletes already have invested time in building social media accounts with large audiences. One recent study attempted to understand how such social media followings (focusing on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter) may impact potential earning for NCAA basketball players.
It’s good news for women in basketball. 12 of the top 25 student-athletes that made the top of the highest potential earners list were female!
Infographic Design By Bet Arizona
The findings are excellent news, considering that the NCAA has had a well-documented history of undermining women’s sports. The NCAA was under scrutiny earlier this year when the University of Oregon women’s basketball forward, Sedona Prince, posted a video to TikTok. The post exposed the undeniable differences in the weight rooms for the men and women competing in the March Madness tournament (the biggest tournament of the year for college basketball).
With this ruling, women are no longer defined solely by the budgets allocated to their sports programs. Instead, they can work directly with brands to negotiate their own deals.
Dominating the game: Paige Bueckers and the Cavinder twins
The study cited above found that Paige Bueckers – a star player for the University of Connecticut – is the female athlete with the highest potential earnings. Overall, she came in at #3 on the list with a total follower count of almost 1.3 million across the three platforms. University of Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith and Baylor’s Jaden Owens are the next two women on the list, trailing Bueckers at #4 and #6 respectively.
Paige Bueckers wasted no time taking advantage of her high-earning potential and seeking out NIL deals once the new rule passed. In just a few short months, she has signed two of the most noteworthy and respected NIL deals in college and professional sports alike.
On November 22, Paige became the first college athlete to receive a Gatorade endorsement and just a couple of weeks prior signed a deal with Stock X to become their newest brand ambassador. BetArizona’s estimate of Paige’s potential earnings was $1,038,560 (see above infographic). These two deals alone put her at reported potential earnings of $1 million within only five months of having the opportunity to make this a reality for herself.
Haley and Hanna Cavinder, known as “the Cavinder twins,” of Fresno State were one of the first NCAA athletes to receive a brand deal since the rule change. They signed a deal with Boost Mobile at 12 am on July 1st (the first day NIL deals were allowed).
The twins have been capitalizing on their image ever since by continuing to sign brand deals big and small. All of these high-profile brands can choose from hundreds of college athletes in any sport to offer deals to, and women are proving to dominate the space right now.
Future implications for women’s sports in college and beyond
The future is looking bright for many female athletes with this new ruling. This newly acquired opportunity to make brand deals will be forever important for women to gain control of their own financial success in a world that continues to oppress their earning potential.
For example, the current average WBNA salary is $120,648, while the average NBA salary is $12,227,490! For women athletes who dream of playing professionally, that means their earning ability plummets in comparison to men if they choose to follow their passion.
That’s where the power of this NIL ruling dramatically changes the future earning ability for women in sports. If we continue to see the same trend as we have in the past few months, women will surely continue to dominate NIL deals and revel in the freedom of holding their own future in their hands. Even still, no amount of brand deals can really make up for the stunning wage gap between women and men’s professional basketball.
So, we are rooting for the NCAA women athletes of today and cannot wait to see what steps they take to repave the way for women in sports. From basketball to gymnastics, track and field to soccer, we’re sure that they will inspire lasting change in the world of sports.
About today’s writer
Mercedes is a Content Marketing Specialist who loves collecting records and going to any and every type of concert in her free time. She specializes in building brand awareness, particularly for the fashion and music industries, using unique and creative public relations strategies.