Volleyball grows in popularity thanks to NIL

By Luke Lombardi

On June 30 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously voted 9-0 in NCAA vs. Alston to allow athletes to finally earn money using their name, image and likeness (NIL) after many years of controversy.

NIL rights are good for the players, but also help shine a light on how popular each sport is. According to an Opendorse study, women’s volleyball was the second most active and compensated sport behind only football two months into NIL rights. 

“It’s just great to know that volleyball is up there and kind of being represented,” junior opposite Morgan Romano said. 

Rider volleyball athletes are taking advantage of the opportunities that NIL rights bring them. 

“I filled out the Google Docs form for CrossNet. I followed through with that, and right now I’m a CrossNet athlete,” Romano said. “They sent me a net in the mail and that was how it started, but that’s all it is right now.”

CrossNet is a volleyball game designed to help train athletes. They also started their own CrossNet athletes program so volleyball players could sign deals with them and become sponsored.

Multiple Rider volleyball players also applied to become Barstool Sports athletes. Barstool Sports is a popular digital media company among college-age students that primarily covers sports. Romano applied and never followed through as did senior setter Anilee Sher. 

“I reached out to a couple of activewear clothing brands and the Barstool Sports stuff, but I wasn’t jumping to do all that. I don’t know exactly why, but I didn’t reach out to a lot of people,” Sher said.

There was reluctance involved from the athletes at Rider as being allowed to profit off NIL is brand new. 

Sher said, “I didn’t really want to make a mistake. I didn’t want to do something that could affect my eligibility or anything because I wasn’t extremely clear on all the rules.”

Rider made sure to help the athletes decide what was the right course of action for them. 

Women’s volleyball Head Coach Jeffrey Rotondo said, “What we basically did was [we] just said ‘Look, if you’re getting opportunities once this [has] opened up, please run them by us to make sure it wasn’t going to cost you anything. Any proposals or anything that was sent to them, whether it be somebody reached out to them over social media to promote or anything like that, we just said [to] run it by us because there are some loopholes we have to work through not only with the NCAA, but the university.”

NIL can also help the sport grow in terms of drawing athletes into volleyball for schools of all sizes. 

Sher said, “I think that a small school like Rider, it will be beneficial for sure, just knowing that Rider is helping students and athletes try to put their brand out there and help them be more than just an athlete and the program and help them develop themselves outside of it and I think that’s really important.” 

It’s still brand new, but NIL has opened many doors for athletes and will continue to evolve. For now, it has just shown how popular volleyball has become which could lead to a bigger spotlight for major volleyball events. 

Rotondo said, “I think it’s something that will help the narrative of us trying to get traction on some of the major networks. Whether it be ESPN, ESPN2, trying to get our broadcasts more on there when we get to certain fields championship-wise when we get down to the sweet 16 and that kind of stuff. Can we get our matches on ESPN? Can we get them on ESPN2 instead of ESPNU? I think we’ll start to see an expansion of the field being on some major networks if they’re realizing the marketing dollars are out there.”

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