IOWA CITY – Caitlin Clark woke up to an entirely different world Thursday.
Now able to market her name, image and likeness, it’s a world full of opportunities and possibilities for the consensus all-American who earned Big Ten and national freshman of the year recognition last season while leading the Iowa women’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tourney.
Football and men’s basketball players have earned most of the attention surrounding the seismic rules change that as of Thursday allows student-athletes to earn money based on their name, image and likeness without risking collegiate eligibility.
But, the change applies to all athletes in all sports.
Clark, as one of the most high-profile women’s basketball players in the nation, said following a Hawkeye practice on Thursday morning at Carver-Hawkeye Arena that she has fielded inquiries that could lead to monetary opportunities for the sophomore guard.
She is not ready to rush into any of them.
“I think it’s going to present some really cool opportunities, but I am going to be picky about what I do,’’ Clark said. “I don’t have time to do everything and I don’t want to do everything. I have a lot going on and my focus is obviously basketball. I want to take this team to the Final Four.’’
Clark is relying on the same support network she relied on during her recruiting process, mainly her parents and coaches, to help her navigate through the multitude of possibilities that may come her way.
“It’s definitely all so strange in a way,’’ Clark said. “This is uncharted territory for everybody, so there’s a lot of questions and not many answers right now. It’s going to be like that for a while.’’
For all athletes, those possibilities include being paid for everything from sponsorship deals to online endorsements to showing for personal appearances at businesses and events.
Clark appreciates the newfound opportunities.
“It’s definitely exciting,’’ she said. “I’m really happy for all student athletes. It’s a right we should have had for a really long time, and it will be interesting to see where it all goes.’’
Clark joined her teammates and other Iowa athletes in attending meetings with Iowa compliance officials in recent days.
In those meetings, it was outlined how the changes will impact athletes and what additional responsibilities they had in terms of reporting their individual activities to university officials as required.
Iowa coach Lisa Bluder talked with her team about the new opportunities earlier this week.
“The thing we just cautioned them about is basketball and academics are first and foremost,’’ Bluder said. “If you’re not good in those two areas, nobody is going to want your name, image or likeness anyway.’’
Clark gets that as well.
That’s why she plans to forge ahead on the basketball court, working to continue to develop her game, while appreciating the new opportunities that exist.
“I’m fortunate that I have a good support group to help me with it all and I’m super grateful for that. I don’t have a lot of spare time right now as it is,’’ Clark said.
Between basketball, academics and just living life, Clark said the chance to earn some dollars is just one more thing that will become part of her routine.
“It’s just adding another thing on top of everything else that I’m already doing,’’ Clark said. “I do know that with this time management is going to become even more important than ever. It can’t become a distraction.’’
Bluder believes the support women’s basketball programs in the state of Iowa receive from fans should create some opportunities for players to benefit from their name, image and likeness.
Iowa forward McKenna Warnock said teammates will be watching how it all plays out for Clark.
“Caitlin is kind of our guinea pig. Everyone wants to talk to her about it first, and then we will want her to come to us and tell us how it works,’’ Warnock said.
“I like it that way. It’s very different, especially being able to be yourself and be out there on your own. I’m really happy to see where it takes women’s basketball.’’
Bluder said Iowa’s compliance personnel did a good job preparing athletes and coaches for the new world that rose with the sun on Thursday.
“I think we’re so far ahead of this,’’ Bluder said. “We had an hour workshop (on Wednesday) with compliance and men’s basketball to help prepare everyone. They’re just ready. I also think in recruiting, we can be very marketable.’’
Bluder also knows that success on the court will likely create the biggest opportunities the Hawkeyes she works with may realize.
“In this community, as well as we draw, kids can make money here and why not if they can?’’ Bluder said. “So, do your best on the floor, off the floor and that will probably make you a little bit more marketable.’’