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NIL deals are lesson-filled for Hawkeyes' Clark

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Michigan Iowa Basketball

With consensus All-American guard Caitlin Clark among a starting five which returns intact, the Iowa women's basketball team will have a record 18 games televised during the upcoming 2022-23 season.

IOWA CITY — Caitlin Clark smiled Friday when she talked about the 500 kids who had a chance to challenge the Iowa All-American in a pop-a-shot contest last weekend.

“A lot of those kids thought they could beat me, but they learned the hard way," Clark said.

The first-ever college women’s basketball player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in a single season demonstrated her marksmanship with a basketball as part of of a promotional appearance she made on Kids Day at the Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.

Clark said she enjoyed the experience, compensated as part of her name, image and likeness agreement with Hy-Vee and one of several NIL deals the Hawkeye junior has signed.

One of the most marketable student-athletes on the Iowa campus, Clark announced earlier this week she had signed a deal with the Topps Company, which will distribute trading cards with her autograph and likeness on it in the near future.

“I’m pretty excited about that," Clark said. “My brother and I always collected and traded cards growing up and to have my own, that’s pretty neat."

She also previously announced an agreement with H&R Block and has participated in several events for Hy-Vee.

A little over a year since the NCAA first allowed student-athletes to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness, Clark said she has learned a lot since then, just as those young shooters received a pop-a-shot education.

“I think it’s been interesting, NIL," Clark said. “I think it’s been a real good thing and something kids should have had for a really long time. It’s been cool to see what a lot of different Iowa athletes have been able to do."

Clark said she has been careful to not sign on to every opportunity that comes her way.

“I’ve been super selective," Clark said. “Obviously, I don’t have the time to do many things. I always try to partner with bigger companies that are usually long-term deals and they align with my values as who I am as a person. Those are main things I look at."

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said the NIL environment that exists is something coaches are adjusting to as much as the athletes they coach are.

“It’s just different," Bluder said. “As coaches, we have to adapt. If you’re going to push back, you’re going to get left in the dust. You’ve got to embrace it, and that’s what we’re trying to do with the collective."

Every starter on the Iowa women’s basketball team that won Big Ten regular-season and tourney titles a year ago benefited from some sort of NIL arrangement.

Bluder said it has been an educational experience for each.

Using Clark’s agreements as an example, Bluder said, “She’s learning how to market herself, how to sign contracts, how to be responsible and show up. Those are all transferable skills into the rest of her life, and she’s learning those at a real rapid pace. I think it’s great, and she’s not the only one."

Clark is among Hawkeyes who have used their popularity to raise dollars for charitable endeavors she supports in addition to earning income.

“I think a lot of us have really given back to our community, which is really the best thing about it," Clark said. “When it’s used the right way, I think it’s really good for not only the student-athlete, but the people around them as well."

Bluder appreciates that Iowa’s Swarm Collective will benefit not only football and men’s basketball players, but women’s basketball players as well.

“I see schools all over the country where it’s only football or only men’s basketball and football. For the University of Iowa to include women’s basketball just speaks volumes about the culture of this university and the guys in charge of the (collective) program," Bluder said. “I’m really proud that we’re going to part of that collective."

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No Big Ten program matches the 18 games the Iowa women's basketball team will have telecast during the 2022-23 season, including a collection of 14 Big Ten games and the first two Big Ten women’s basketball games ever to be televised by FOX.

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