College basketball legend and Notre Dame rising senior Arike Ogunbowale is set to appear on the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars beginning in just under two weeks. But because Ogunbowale still plays for Notre Dame and is thus considered an NCAA athlete even on summer break, there are at least a dozen unnecessary hoops to jump through first.
Athletes enrolled in NCAA member institutions are subject to a litany of arcane bylaws, drafted in the name of protecting amateurism—a system that pays coaches and athletic directors millions of dollars and the athletes nothing at all. A report published today by the Washington Post explored the tight-rope the NCAA had to walk in Ogunbowale’s case to ensure 1) it wouldn’t be subject to another round of bad press for not letting a player profit from their labor and 2) Ogunbowale wouldn’t be breaking any amateurism rules, and more importantly, setting any precedents for future athletes to profit off their name and likeness.
DWTS participants are paid a flat fee to appear on the show, with the winner taking home up to $345,000, though that number might be low as the latest available payment details come from a 2016 report from RadarOnline; DWTS declined to comment on payment info to the Post. The specific bylaw Ogunbowale’s appearance will break is 12.4.1, which prohibits athletes from being paid for “publicity, reputation, fame or personal following that he or she has obtained because of athletics ability.” In a comment to the Post, the NCAA hilariously tried to say that the reason Ogunbowale was tapped for DWTS is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” which is, obviously, bullshit—Ogunbowale’s miraculous title-winning buzzer-beater is the No. 1 reason this year’s women’s Final Four outclassed the men’s version, by miles.
The Post detailed the lawyering that went into getting the star Notre Dame point guard on the show.
The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.
And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.
If there are any Dancing With The Stars folks that would like to talk about how exactly ABC and the NCAA came to this fairly unique and rule-bending agreement, drop us a line!