Texas A&M freshman cross country runner Ryan Trahan has been forced into a decision by the NCAA regarding his eligibility as a collegiate athlete and his role as a personal business owner.
Trahan runs a YouTube account that has 14,000 subscribers on which he posts videos documenting his cross country career as well as promoting a water bottle business he started. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Chaves reports that Trahan founded Neptune water bottles with one of his friends in 2016.
That’s where the problem for the NCAA exists. In his videos, promoting the brand, Trahan had discussed his status and image as a runner for the Aggies, which is against NCAA bylaw 12.4.4, which 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.”
So in talking about himself and for what teams he runs, in a video he made about running for the company he co-founded, Trahan broke an NCAA rule. Take that for what you will.
And according to a video this week on Trahan’s YouTube channel, he received an ultimatum.
Here’s how Trahan broke down his two choices.
“I can either be a runner that does not own a company,” he says. “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,” he continues. “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.”
In the SI story mentioned earlier, Trahan said he met with the Texas A&M compliance office this week and is filing a waiver to allow him to continue to do both under a compromise. However, the NCAA refuted in a Thursday Tweet that it had received any waiver.
Student-athletes can own and run their own business without violating NCAA rules if it’s not based on their athletics reputation or ability.
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) September 21, 2017
On Thursday, Texas A&M released this statement regarding Trahan’s situation. Here’s the compromise that the school, NCAA, and Trahan came to.
“After a cooperative process involving Ryan, the school and the NCAA, the NCAA granted a waiver that will allow Ryan to continue the use of his name, picture and videos to promote his personal business, provided he does not use or reference his participation in intercollegiate athletics or his status as a student-athlete at Texas A&M,” the statement reads. “Further, Ryan may continue to operate personal social media accounts independent of his business social media account(s) documenting his personal activities which may include his participation as a collegiate runner. Ryan is eligible to participate at Texas A&M and continue to run his business.”
And Trahan’s reaction to the compromise, via Chavez at SI, was not the most grateful, considering it forces him to basically split his identity.
“It blows my mind that I have to put up a wall between my two personas,” he said. “It’s a matter of fighting for an athlete’s right to own and operate a business just like everyone else.”
Noted NCAA rules basher Jay Bilas chimed in on Twitter with his thoughts on the case.
So, if this college runner runs AND runs his company, he's a "threat to integrity"? Is that what the NCAA should be about? https://t.co/fi9xu8bC4T
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) September 21, 2017
It appears the situation is settled for now, but players are becoming more and more vocal against the NCAA and in favor of their rights, so another case similar to Trahan’s is bound to come up again soon.
I'm trying to live the life I've always dreamed of
— Ryan Trahan (@rytrahan) September 21, 2017