The NCAA’s ruling allowing students to profit off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) has opened up a lucrative new world for college athletes. As brands and agencies move to embrace NIL opportunities, several female athletes are well-positioned to take advantage of the new policy.
These are the Top 10 in line for a payday:
Paige Bueckers has been making headlines since high school, and after a dominant freshman year at UConn, the basketball star is now a household name. With 906,000 followers on Instagram and a strong national profile boosted by a memorable appearance at the ESPYs, Bueckers is one of the most popular college athletes in America today. Singing with Wassermann Media Group, a Los Angeles-based sports marketing and talent company, Bueckers is likely to leverage her platform for lucrative NIL deals, with some estimates predicting the basketball star could make $1 million a year in partnerships and endorsements.
Suni Lee was the breakout star of the Tokyo Olympics after winning individual gold in women’s gymnastics and capturing the world’s attention. Lee’s Olympic success earned her a spot competing on this season of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, only elevating her growing profile. Now at the Auburn University, Lee is set to benefit the most from NIL deals due to her rising fame (and 1.6 million Instagram followers).
Haley Van Lith had a strong debut season for Louisville, leading the women’s basketball team to an Elite Eight appearance and the ACC Championship game while earning a spot on the ACC All-Freshman Team. The breakout Louisville star also boasts a sizeable social media following, including 703,000 fans on Instagram, making her a true beneficiary of NIL changes. In August, Lith signed with Octagon, a talent management agency, embracing the potential for forthcoming partnerships and endorsements.
Cameron Brink is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable athletes in college basketball after helping Stanford take home the NCAA 2021 Women’s Basketball Championship in her freshman year. Off the court, Brink is a savvy social media influencer, with 160,000 followers on Instagram and a series of brand deals. The Stanford star is among a growing group of young athletes to sign with Wasserman, adding to her NIL earnings potential.
Last year, Sarah Fuller made NCAA football history, becoming the first woman to play and score in a Power Five football game as a kicker for the Vanderbilt University football team. She’s a uniquely marketable talent who has also signed with Wasserman, leveraging her 146,000 Instagram followers. She currently plays goalkeeper for North Texas as a graduate soccer transfer.
Sedona Prince is not afraid to speak up. Last year, Oregon’s power-forward and center took the sports world by storm after highlighting the weight room disparities between the women’s and men’s 2021 NCAA basketball tournaments. Now, the basketball star boasts a loyal social media following on both Instagram and TikTok, making Prince one of college’s most marketable athletes.
Haley Jones is one of the most talented college basketball players on the court today, having led Stanford to a 2021 NCAA Championship while being named the MOP of the Final Four. Her impressive run to a national title catapulted Jones to prominence, with the basketball star throwing out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game over the summer. Jones’s on-court success, combined with her charisma off the court, makes her a compelling and viable college sports figure.
Caitlin Clark is lighting up the court for Iowa basketball and Team USA, leading the U.S. Under-19 squad to a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup in August. As one of college basketball’s top talents and scorers, Clark will likely be a magnet for NIL deals, something the Iowa star has expressed interest in. “As a female college athlete, valuable opportunities could come in our college career that may not be given at a professional level, especially with the support of female athletics we have here in the state of Iowa.”
University of South Carolina basketball guard Zia Cooke is one of the first athletes to take advantage of the NIL rulings, inking a deal with Bojangles and putting on a for-profit basketball camp in her hometown of Toledo, OH. With 196,000 followers on Instagram, Cooke’s NIL profile is likely to continue to grow.
Kaila Novak, the UCLA soccer star, had a breakout 2020 season, earning her stripes as a Pac-12 All-Freshman honoree. The sophomore also has a significant social media following, including 131,000 followers on Instagram, where she promotes specific brands, including nate, a shopping app.
Get a rundown of the top highlights, stories, and events in women’s sports, including can’t-miss games and exclusive features.
Get a rundown of the top highlights, stories, and events in women’s sports with the JWS newsletter.