Social media combined with name, image, and likeness (NIL) has changed college athletics forever. That’s been a given since NIL was made available to student-athletes starting in July 2021. Athletes’ influence on social media has only gained more traction over the years as platforms lean into those with large individual followings.
There’s no better example of that currently than LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne. Let’s not pretend like 99.9 percent of you would know who she is if it wasn’t for her millions of followers on TikTok and Instagram.
It’d be irresponsible to say Dunne only has a huge following because she’s attractive and athletic. The junior does publish a ton of digital content and clearly knows how to market herself online.
According to On3’s NIL database, Dunne is the highest-earning female collegiate athlete, earning $2.3 million thus far. That tool estimates every post of Dunne’s is worth $31,000. Dozens of her videos on TikTok last less than 10 seconds. That’s quite the haul for time on the job. And at LSU’s meet last Saturday against Utah, her following, mainly rowdy college boys in Salt Lake City, caused the Tigers to make a change to their security detail moving forward.
Moving forward, LSU gymnastics will have more security surrounding them at meets because of the behaviors shown by fans in Utah. This all comes from a meet Dunne attended, but didn’t compete at, because of injury. Raucous fans met LSU’s arrival with signs and cutouts of her. They chanted for her throughout the meet’s four rotations and their outlandish behavior disrupted other athletes’ routines. Silence from the crowd is common during the balance beam discipline.
After the meet, videos can be seen of males lined up chanting “We want her” as well as Dunne’s name in anticipation of her leaving the arena. According to KSL.com Sports, the team’s bus had to move to avoid the crowd. Dunne commented on the crowd’s behavior the next day: “I will always appreciate and love the support from you guys, but if you come to a meet, I want to ask you to please be respectful of the other gymnasts and the gymnastics community as we are just doing our job,” Dunne tweeted.
It’s also fair to say the school is well aware of Dunne’s following. Before listing any facts from her upbringing or athletic career, typical for college athletes, her social media is listed. Linking to a student-athlete’s TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram from their official school profile is extremely rare. Oddly, second on On3’s NIL database of highest-earning females is Auburn gymnast Suni Lee. Dunne and the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist are the only female millionaires on the list. No added security detail has been added for Lee’s meets.
LSU’s next meet is tonight against Kentucky before two home meets against Oklahoma and Missouri. No added security features have been announced for those events taking place in Baton Rouge. Due to the fans’ behavior in Utah, I’d be shocked if the status quo on security was enacted in Kentucky and Louisiana.