Stacy Wescoe//July 15, 2021
Stacy Wescoe//July 15, 2021//
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs have become the first professional sports team in the nation to take advantage of a change in NCAA rules, which now allow student athletes to accept endorsements while still playing for a university.
The team has signed Lehigh University star softball player, Carley Barjaktarovich, as its first official “IronPigs Athlete.”
“She’s an outstanding athlete and an incredible student and we think it will be a real win-win for us to have her,” said Mike Ventola, media relations manager for the IronPigs.
He explained that as of July 1, NCAA athletes were allowed to accept endorsements for the use of their own name, image, and likeness while still competing for their university. Such endorsement deals were previously banned by the association.
Barstool sports was the first company to sign an endorsement deal with college athletes, but the IronPigs were the first sports team to sign such a deal.
Ventola said the team is excited to be a trailblazer in the idea.
“We’re hoping we’re trend setters by being the first,” he said.
While he is unaware of any other major or minor league team pursuing a similar deal, he hopes the idea catches on because not only is it an earning opportunity for student athletes, it’s a way to prepare them for a career post-graduation.
“What we’re hoping is that it can start a trend for other athletes to do what they can to start thinking about the future. Many will go on to a career in professional sports, but not everyone’s dreams will be fulfilled. This is being proactive with their careers,” he said.
Barjaktarovich, who was already working part time in ticketing for the team, will now work with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on social media, merchandise and appearances, specifically on Thursday, July 22 when the IronPigs will be hosting Softball Night.
She said she was excited about her new role.
“I’m honored to be given this opportunity and am very excited to represent the IronPigs organization as a collegiate athlete,” said Barjaktarovich. “It is a little surreal to be a part of something so new that will have a huge impact on college athletes for years to come.”