(Photo of Hailey Van Lith: Jared Anderson via the Atlantic Coast Conference)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A new age in collegiate athletics is dawning. While we are not sure the degree of control student-athletes will have, the consensus is that at some point, the NCAA will soon allow them to monetize on their name, image and likeness (NIL).
If by some miracle the NCAA allows them to have complete and total control of their NIL rights, Louisville women's basketball's Hailey Van Lith could be in line for a massive payday.
Opendorse, a company designed to help athletes build their personal brands via social media, and one which the University of Louisville has a partnership with, provided to Axios the estimated annual earnings for the top 20 most-followed men's and women's college basketball players in the Elite Eight of their respective tournament.
Weighing a variety of factors, such as engagement rate, market size, and overall sponsorship and athletic department revenue by school, they estimated that the freshman guard for the Cardinals would be worth $965,000 per year - by far the most out of any player in the top 20.
Her combined 696,000 Twitter and Instagram followers rank second only to UConn women's basketball freshman guard Paige Bueckers' 730,000. However, Opendorse estimates Bueckers to be worth just $382,000.
Eight of the ten most-followed are women, with Gonzaga men's basketball's guard Jalen Suggs the highest-ranking men's player on the list. He places third in followers at 325,000, and second to Van Lith in projected value at $495,000.
Last September, the University of Louisville partnered with Opendorse to create ELEVATE, a program designed to help student-athletes build their individual brands. ELEVATE provides student-athletes the opportunity to understand their NIL rights and receive hands-on assistance from experts to maximize their value while on campus.
“There is no question that change is coming to Name, Image, and Likeness rights for our student-athletes---and it’s coming quickly,” Louisville AD Vince Tyra said. “It’s on us as leaders to be prepared with innovative solutions to best help athletes, coaches, and staff in this area just as we would any other aspect of elite performance. We are committed to developing the totality of our student-athletes for success far beyond their time with us—and these days, knowing how to protect and maximize the value of their personal brand is a critical part of that toolkit.”
The partnership with Opendorse positioned Louisville to be among the first universities nationwide to launch an NIL solution for every student-athlete on campus. They joined Nebraska, Clemson, Indiana, Fresno State, and several others as the first schools to adopt the program.
Van Lith has had an impressive freshman season for the Cardinals, averaging 11.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 29 games, including the first three of the NCAA Tournament. The 5-foot-7 point guard from Wenatchee, Wash. was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team, and has helped Louisville reach a berth in the ACC Championship game, as well as the Elite Eight.
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