After high school graduation, a student's freshmen year in college can be one of many transitions.
The problems and situations one may run into are those that you have never had to deal with before. And this is especially the case if you're a student-athlete on scholarship. You have to learn the campus, deal with professors, learn to live away from home and mom and dad, create time management, pursue college athletics, and the list goes on.
Some of you may know Ryan Trahan from his Texas high school running days at Altair Rice High. Over the years, Trahan rose through the 3A distance running ranks, eventually becoming one of Texas' top runners in 2016-2017. Through all of that, he was able to earn a scholarship to Texas A&M University.
But did you know that while Trahan is an accomplished runner, he's also a businessman?
He owns and promotes his own company, the Neptune Bottle Company. Neptune Bottle is essentially a cooler that keeps your cold drinks cold and your hot drinks hot -- here's a link to the product. The company prides itself on its effectiveness, affordability and style.
To run a successful business, Trahan promotes his company via social media. A lot of his company's success comes from his YouTube channel.
So where's the problem?
As a freshman at Texas A&M, Trahan has himself a conundrum -- one much bigger than most freshmen in college are accustomed to dealing with. No, it is not a schedule change, transportation issue, 5:30 AM practice, or academic-related issues.
Trahan is going head-to-head with the NCAA.
According to Trahan, the NCAA doesn't exactly see it as simple as he does.
"I met with academic advisor and went to compliance; it's what I consider bad news," he said. "The NCAA says I'm violating NCAA rules by promoting my company with my name, image, and likeness as an athlete."
The NCAA has declared him ineligible.
According to the NCAA, the bylaws Trahan is accused to have violated is 12.5.2 of the Official Amateurism Regulations: NCAA Bylaw 12. Bylaw 12.5.2 states "A student-athlete will lose their ability to participate in NCAA sporting events if they are discovered to be receiving payment through commercial advertisement, promotion, or endorsement."
However, Trahan doesn't exactly agree, "The restrictions they place on the athletes blow my mind. We are human beings and we should be allowed to operate in the free market just like everyone else. Everyone has to make a living doing something, not everyone is going to go pro in football."
Neither Trahan nor Texas A&M are gaining an advantage because of Trahan's business prowess, but the NCAA sees an amateur issue with it. Again, Trahan is a big hit on social media, saying, "I always include things about Texas A&M and running and stuff and I also plug my company." That is the conflict with the NCAA's take on receiving payment through commercial advertisement, promotion, and endorsement.
Currently, Trahan and Texas A&M are working with the NCAA to resolve the issue.
"I had to file a waiver so I can still own and operate my company while being on the track and cross country team," he said. "I have to file for reinstatement for my eligibility, as I'm considered ineligible until this whole situation is over."
Resolving The Issue
There are two options on the table for Trahan to consider as far as waiver to and his company goes.
Option one: "So, I can be a runner who doesn't own a company and I can make no references to my company. I can post videos and let people know that I am on the cross country and track team, but I can have no reference and no correlation to my company on social media. I basically have to hide the fact that I own this company that I am so proud of and worked so hard on."
And option two: "I can own the company and I can let people know and promote it all I want but I cant let people know that I run for Texas A&M. I can't post any running videos, I can't blog my meets any more, and I can't make any references to A&M on social media."
Does the business really make Trahan any less amateur as a runner? He isn't gaining or accepting any financial support for his athletic ability by running the business. His athletic performance doesn't even gain anything from the business. Trahan isn't alone, as others agree with him.
"It's a crossroads and that has been something that has been on my mind a lot lately and its a tough decision. I kind of know which one I want to go with but i still haven't made the decision completely yet."
In 2017, former University of Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye was declared ineligible by the NCAA and eventually lost his scholarship. De La Haye is a very successful YouTuber who had a business blogging about him practicing, hanging out with friends, and football-related themes. As with Trahan, the NCAA gave De La Haye conditions that he had to follow in order to regain his eligibility, which he thought was unfair and he eventually lost his scholarship.
Will It Work Out?
Per Trahan, "It's just so frustrating. It's a difficult situation. It just baffles my mind the way the NCAA runs things. The NCAA is literally a commercialized multi-million dollar business and uses only athletes to create revenue. The compliance team at A&M has been great though; they're literally just doing their job enforcing the rules they are just trying to help me in not get me or the university in anymore trouble than it needs to be."