Texas A&M distance runner Ryan Trahan says that he has been ruled ineligible and warned by his university for using his name, image and likeness as an athlete on his YouTube page to promote a small company that he started. NCAA bylaw 12.4.4 rules that an athlete “may establish his or her own business, provided the student-athlete’s name, photograph, appearance or athletics reputation are not used to promote the business.”
In addition to his running, Trahan has his own YouTube channel with 14,000 subscribers and nearly one million views where he shares tips and insight into his training. He also promotes Neptune water bottles, a company that co-founded with a friend in 2016. Trahan just started his freshman year at Texas A&M after a successful high school career.
Trahan says that he met with an academic advisor and the topic of his company came up. Trahan says he had to file a waiver so that he would still be able to own and operate his company while being on the track and cross country team. He also need to filed a waiver for his eligibility because he is currently ineligible until the matter is settled.
"I have two options as far as the waiver with my company goes and it is really confusing so I'll just try to explain it as best as I possibly can," Trahan says in his latest Youtube video. "I can either be a runner that does not own a company. [In which,] I can make no references to my company but I can post running videos and let people know that I'm at Texas A&M and I'm on the cross country and track team. But, like I said, I can have no reference, no correlation to my company on social media. Basically have to hide the fact that I own this company that I'm so proud of and things are starting to roll so that's one option. The other option is I can own the company. I can let people know I own the company. I can promote it all I want but I can't let anyone know that I run cross country and track for Texas A&M. I can't post any running videos. I can't Vlog any of my meets anymore. I can't make any references to Texas A&M on social media that's probably including Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and everything. It's really a crossroads and that's something that's really been on my mind lately and it's a tough decision."
Watch his full video below:
The NCAA issued the following statement on Twitter:
"The NCAA has not received a formal waiver request from Texas A&M regarding Ryan Trahan, but we are working together on the issue. Student-athletes can own and run their own business without violating NCAA rules if it’s not based on their athletics reputation or ability."
Trahan met with the compliance team at Texas A&M on Thursday.
"Just left my meeting with compliance and it sounds like the compromise is this: operate as two separate entities," Trahan wrote in a message to SI.com. "I am allowed to have a collegiate running alias (with no promotion) and a personal business alias (with no collegiate running), but they must be separate accounts on all platforms. It blows my mind that I have to put up a wall between my two personas. We are working on filing a formal waiver request. Have to send our compliance officer a few more documents and then we can get rolling! Eligibility will not be an issue, I should get approved rather quickly. It's a matter of fighting for an athlete's right to own and operate a business just like everyone else."
The case is similar to former UCF kicker Donald De La Haye, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after being told that he could not make money off any of his YouTube videos that were athletics or business related. De La Haye had been given some conditions to follow in order to continue posting videos and competing for the Knights but he chose not to accept them.