Pennsylvania College Players and Barstool Athletes Navigate New World of NIL

Written By Katie Kohler on July 5, 2021

Pennsylvania college athletes can now profit from their name, image and likeness.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed legislation that allows college athletes in the state to start getting paid without worrying about losing eligibility. The law was signed on June 30, the same day the NCAA changed its rules on prohibiting college athletes from receiving benefits from their name, image, and likeness (NIL). The new policy went into effect on July 1.

However, athletes can not be associated with certain businesses including gambling companies and casinos

The floodgates for deals were opened due to the groundbreaking legislation and athletes quickly capitalized on the new avenue for income. Collin Gillespie, a fifth-year senior guard for the Villanova Wildcats who are one of the favorites (+900) to win the NCAA Championship in 2022, joined the newly-formed Barstool Athletes

It’s been less than a week, and many other Pennsylvania college athletes have already announced partnerships to monetize their NIL.

Portnoy launches Barstool Athletes

Barstool sports founder Dave Portnoy called an “Emergency Press Conference” on Twitter on July 1 to announce the creation of Barstool Athletes. The video has over 1.5 million views. Jacksonville State volleyball player Adelaide Halverson sent Portnoy a DM asking to be the first Barstool Athlete. 

“I don’t know what that is but I like the sound of it,” said Portnoy.

They gave Halverson merchandise and it sparked the idea for the Barstool Athletes. 

“Listen, how do you become a Barstool Athlete?” Portnoy said in the video. “If you play Division I sports and you blink at me, we will sign you. We’ll send you custom merch. You want pizza. You want Campari. We may become the most powerful agency in the world.”

On July 1, Portnoy retweeted/welcomed about 18 athletes who had sent him messages about joining the new venture. One of the first Barstool Athletes was Collin Gillespie.

About three hours after the announcement of Barstool Athlete, Portnoy tweeted

Barstool Athletes Inc is the most barstool thing ever. No thought put into it. No clue what we were doing. And 2 hours later the most powerful student athlete organization in the country. Still no clue what’s happening. #fortheplayers #barstoolathlete

Those who want to join Barstool Athletes should fill out the Google form application.

PA Barstool Athletes

As of July 5, a wide cross-section of Pennsylvania college athletes joined Barstool Athletics. Barstool Athletics Instagram welcomes the new players and the account currently has over 148,000 followers.

  • Sydney Wolfington, Penn State women’s lacrosse
  • Erin Triandafils, Penn State women’s lacrosse
  • Mikayla Lantto, Penn State women’s hockey
  • Taylor Marinelli, St. Joseph’s softball
  • Daniel Vasey, Penn State football
  • Adam Pilewicz, Penn State hockey
  • Jordan Stout, Penn State football
  • Jalen Goodman, Villanova football
  • Cody Ross, Slippery Rock football
  • Cole Fryer, East Stroudsburg football
  • Balthi Saunders, Villanova soccer
  • Joey Galantini, University of the Sciences baseball
  • Selwyn Simpson, Lafayette football
  • AJ Apel, York College lacrosse
  • Noah Winton, Villanova tennis
  • Caitlyn Amsden, Temple field hockey
  • Chet Comizio, Villanova lacrosse
  • Julia Russo, Penn field hockey
  • Kenna Burkhardt, Temple field hockey
  • Roman Bravo-Young, Penn State wrestling

Barstool Athletes are under the media company, not the sportsbook

Wait. Isn’t Barstool a sportsbook and aren’t athletes prohibited from partnering with any gambling company? Stoolie Nation would probably tell you to chill out before you tattletale to the Dean and compliance officer.

Barstool Sports is a digital media company. Some brands under the Barstool umbrella include “Barstool Sportbook,” “Saturdays are for the Boys,” and “Call Her Daddy.”

In January 2020, Penn National Gaming (the PA-based omnichannel gambling company)   acquired a 36% stake in Barstool Sports for $163 million in cash and stock. The transaction valued Barstool at $450 million. The agreement gives Penn National the sole rights to use the Barstool Sports brand for its online sports betting and online casino products.

The much-anticipated Barstool sportsbook app, through its partnership with Hollywood Casino, arrived in Pennsylvania in September 2020.

So, Penn National operates the Barstool sportsbook. Which means that college athletes are free to join Barstool Athletes which is under Barstool Sports, the digital media company.

But it does boost the Barstool brand and reach their demo

Most students in college are over 25-years-old. In PA, you have to be 21+ to gamble at a casino or place bets on PA sports betting apps. Barstool, which has always relied heavily on brand recognition and its fervent followers, is following that playbook with Barstool Athletes.

The college players who are Barstool Athletes, no matter their age, can not bet on sports while they are competing. However, once they graduate it’s safe to assume they will be a Barstool customer for life.

While they are in school and wearing the Barstool swag and posting on their social media accounts, they will be reaching others who are legally able to download and wager on the Barstool sportsbook and casino app.

At the 2020 SBC Digital Summit North America, Jay Snowden, president and CEO of Penn National Gaming, discussed the acquisition of the Barstool brand.

“We knew the one thing that we were missing from a sports betting perspective at Penn was a brand to lead with and an audience to market to. We had great casino brands, but our audience today tends to skew older — 45-plus — and the sports bettors tend to skew younger — 21 to 45 — so that’s where we started to look at who we might want to partner with, and of course we eventually bought Barstool.”

“We’re going to lead with the Barstool brand from an online sports betting perspective,” he said. “We’re also in the process of converting our existing retail sportsbooks inside of our casinos and our sports bars to Barstool-branded sportsbooks and sports bars.”

Penn State makes NIL “statement”

On July 1, Penn State University announced partnerships with a content-creation platform and a compliance platform to facilitate NIL opportunities for athletes. The resources are available through the new STATEment program.

Penn State says, “STATEment will aide students in understanding and growing their brand through meaningful education programs and an emphasis on entrepreneurship.”

Penn State’s Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour released this statement:

“Our why has always been preparing our students for a lifetime of impact, and this new opportunity will allow them to explore entrepreneurship and develop skills which they will carry with them long beyond their time at Penn State. For many years we have had a comprehensive educational program for our students when they arrive on campus and STATEment’s educational components are an extension of that program.”

Penn State head football coach James Franklin added:

“STATEment will influence our students in so many ways as they begin their NIL journey with education and support on a variety of topics, including brand building and financial responsibility.”

Men’s Golf Head Coach Greg Nye added:

“NIL has been a long time coming for our students.”

University of Pittsburgh NIL statement

The University of Pittsburgh also started a NIL branding program to help athletes.

Pitt Athletic Director Heather Lyke said

“As it relates to providing our student-athletes with the most extraordinary experience at Pitt, our goal is to be progressive, innovative and helpful in every aspect of their student-athlete experience and the world of name, image and likeness is no different. We look forward to helping our student-athletes learn more about this topic and build a transparent relationship with them and their families so we can assist in their efforts or aspirations to maximize compensation and opportunities involving their name, image and likeness.”

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in July 2020, Lyke said that gambling on college sports should be prohibited. Lyke, who has been Pitt’s AD since 2017, was part of a group of college athletic administrators who wanted federal legislation regarding NIL rules.

“The ACC opposes gambling on intercollegiate sports,” Lyke said. “While we understand that gambling on professional sports is here to stay, we urge Congress to directly address gambling on intercollegiate athletics and prohibit it, as was intended in PASPA and had been the case for so long.”

What do NIL changes mean for PA student athletes?

In a state with a team like the Villanova Wildcats who made 15 NCAA tournaments under Jay Wright, it’s easy to see players like Gillespie and Saddiq Bey taking advantage of opportunities to make money. Penn State is a perennially-ranked college football team so top players there should be presented with chances to make money.

Here are some deals PA college athletes have made since they are able to profit off of their NIL.

  • Derrick Tangelo, Brandon Smith, Ta’Quan Roberson, Curtis Jacobs and more Penn State athletes: With YOKE Gaming, a service that allows customers to play video games with athletes.
  • Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State wrestling): Raffled his shoes and is also a Barstool Athlete.
  • Sean Clifford (Penn State football): Selling t-shirt with his likeness and is also on Cameo.
  • Bryce Effner (Penn State football): Partnered with food delivery service GoPuff.

Many college athletes, including Clifford and Penn State women’s basketball player Anna Camden, are now on Cameo, the video messaging app. Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler (+550) and Heisman hopeful Texas running back Bijan Robinson (+2000) are available to book for $125. LSU basketball player Shareef O’Neal, son of Shaquille O’Neal, can be booked for $80.

In the new world where college athletes can make money on their NIL, of course athletes in high profile sports will have opportunities. College athletes can now get paid to appear at sports card and memorabilia shows to sign autographs, and they can appear in ads for car dealerships.

You may see more athletes, like swimmers and golfers, running camps. Also, college athletes like Olivia Dunne, a cheerleader at LSU who has 1.1 million Instagram followers, can now turn her social media content into cash.

The new NIL world is sure to change the face of college athletics forever.

Lead photo by Matt Slocum/AP. 

Katie Kohler Avatar
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Katie Kohler

Katie Kohler is a Philadelphia-area based award-winning journalist. She is the Managing Editor at PlayPennsylvania and covers the Pennsylvania gambling industry with an emphasis on sports betting, online casino/poker and the lottery.

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