Barstool Gets Pushback From University Of Illinois Regarding ‘Barstool Athletes’

Written By Joe Boozell on September 17, 2021
barstool illinois NIL clash

With college-athletes now allowed to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL), Barstool has a catalog of thousands of NCAA brand ambassadors.

Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, was quick to pounce on the news:

“If you play Division 1 sports and you blink at me, we will sign you.”

But certain universities have issues with their athletes working with Barstool, including the University of Illinois.

Illinois says student-athletes can receive Barstool merchandise, but it will request any photos containing trademarked logos be taken off of the internet.

Currently, the Illinois university athletes can receive a hoodie, joggers and a T-shirt from Barstool — a value of $125. What Barstool wants in exchange is for students-athletes to put “Barstool Athlete” in their social media bios. Barstool also wants them to share a uniformed photo of themselves.

However, the latter component, Illinois NIL program coordinator Kamron Cox (pictured left) told Business Insider, will force the university to take action:

“Candidly, our student-athletes can’t give away rights that they don’t have. The truth of the matter is, if they post the picture, we, but probably me, I’m going to send Barstool an email and say take it down. It’s a picture of them in our uniform, and you’re not authorized to use that.”

Cox added:

“The value of our trademarks is that we basically sell those trademarks at a pretty high price to our corporate partners who are willing to pay that price.”

College-athletes are also not allowed to promote Barstool Sportsbook, a one of the six online sportsbooks in Illinois. Which makes sense, considering it’s illegal for anyone to bet on the Illini in the Land of Lincoln.

Illinois in-state betting ban on local schools

Illinois is in a minority of states that prohibit betting on in-state college teams. That means legally wagering on Illinois, Northwestern, Loyola Chicago, etc., is not allowed.

One of the most vocal proponents of that policy? Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman.

Whitman said at a House Executive Committee hearing in April:

“Most of the time, they base a lot of their self-concept or self-image about people they’ve never met, what they say about them on social media. And that’s a daily battle that we fight in college-athletics today. By allowing people in our state to bet on our own student athletes, we’re only opening the door and inviting people to have those intense, threatening, abusive interactions with our student-athletes.”

The House passed a bill earlier this year that would legalize in-state collegiate betting on local teams, but only in person. The Senate has yet to vote on the bill, but could during October’s veto session.

For what it’s worth, Whitman is in favor of player NIL rights. He said at the time of the US Supreme Court ruling:

“This is one of those days that allows us to begin to usher in a new era of college athletics. Truly, (name, image and likeness) legislation represents the most dramatic, meaningful change to come to the collegiate model since the adoption of athletic scholarships back in the early 1950s.”

Barstool Illinois struggles without online registration

In July, Barstool in Illinois recorded $23.5 million in handle. That was fifth out of IL’s six online sportsbooks.

However, context is key. Barstool launched on March 11; Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker brought back in-person registration in early April. Therefore, Barstool only had about three weeks to remotely register users.

Companies such as BetRivers, DraftKings and FanDuel, on the other hand, had about seven months to register customers online.

Once Illinois has mobile registration again, Barstool could see an uptick in monthly sports betting handle and revenue in Illinois.

But for now, anyone who sees “Barstool Athlete” in a social media profile and is inspired to download the Barstool sports betting app, will instead be instructed to drive to Hollywood Casino Aurora.

Photo by Paul Sancya / AP
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Joe Boozell

Joe Boozell has also been a college sports writer for since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, and Growing up, Boozell squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene ... you can imagine how that went.

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