Jordan Bohannon was one of the loudest voices among college athletes wanting the name-image-likeness rule to come to the NCAA.
The fact that he was standing before a large crowd at the Sheaffer Memorial Golf Course clubhouse on Friday night, getting paid for his appearance, was a sign that he and so many others had won their battle.
Bohannon, entering his sixth year as a guard on Iowa’s men’s basketball team, wouldn’t have been able to make an appearance like that in the past. But now athletes can cash in with the NCAA’s adoption of the NIL rule.
It’s why Bohannon spoke up first when he, Geo Baker of Rutgers, and Isaiah Livers of Michigan held a Zoom conference call with NCAA president Mark Emmert last spring.
“We got on the call, and no one wanted to say anything at first,” Bohannon said. “It was really quiet for about 30 seconds or so. We’re all just staring at each other. Everybody was really nervous.”
Bohannon has never been shy about speaking up, so he asked the first question.
“‘So why are you doing this to athletes right now?’” Bohannon said, recounting the call.
Emmert’s response, Bohannon said, was to laugh.
“He started laughing at me, asking, ‘What are you talking about?’” Bohannon said. “I was like, ‘How can you prohibit us from doing something that isn’t prohibited for any other person in today’s society?’”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that some of the restrictions on the compensation of college athletes violated antitrust laws. Within days, the NCAA allowed athletes to begin cashing in on their name, image and likeness.
Bohannon’s first paid appearance was signing autographs at a fireworks stand.
“What better way to kick off name-image-likeness than go to a fireworks stand on the Fourth of July,” he quipped.
Bohannon has enjoyed his role as being one of the main voices in the NIL battle, but he said there were times when he stepped back and appreciated what he was doing.
“I’m on these Zoom calls, and I’m wondering, ‘What am I doing here? I’m talking to U.S. senators on Zoom calls. I’m a Division I basketball player at Iowa,’” he said.
Bohannon, who is Iowa’s all-time leader in men’s basketball in 3-pointers and assists, returned for an additional year granted to all athletes last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He wasn’t going to pass up the chance, if only to play a normal season after a year in which all of college basketball was played in front of few, if any, fans because of the pandemic.
Someone asked him what he was most looking forward to this season.
“Fans,” Bohannon said. “A normal season. I was dying inside (last season).”
Bohannon has taken time to reflect on his college basketball journey.
“Non-stop, people said, ‘You’re not going to play college basketball,’” Bohannon said. “People came out and criticized me, and continue to criticize me to this day, and I use that as fuel.”
Bohannon remembered when Iowa coach Fran McCaffery called to offer him a scholarship when he was in high school.
“The minute Coach McCaffery called to offer me (a scholarship), I accepted. I didn’t even let him finish,” Bohannon said. “I said ‘Yes’ right away.”
Bohannon endured two hip surgeries that ended his 2019-20 season, the second one nearly causing him to give up on his career.
Bohannon can be an irritant to opposing fan bases — he left an autographed pair of shoes on the floor at Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum after what he thought would be his last game there, an Iowa win, in 2019.
Asked if he was planning on doing that again this season, Bohannon couldn’t resist.
“I might be naked by the end of the game,” he said.
John Bohnenkamp is a national award-winning sports writer and is a regular contributor to Pen City Current