Collegiate Female Athletes Pay as Males Dominate Revenue: Exploring the NIL Gender Pay Gap

Hannah Stumpf
Hannah Stumpf, a sophomore on the swim and dive team at the University of Georgia speaks about her experience with NIL as a female athlete. Credit: Hannah’s instagram (@hannah.stumpf)

Two University of Georgia basketball games were hosted at Stegeman Coliseum in early February.

At the first game on Feb. 3, 10,523 fans packed into a sold-out crowd to cheer on the Bulldogs. The following week, only 3,187 fans showed up to support.

The difference? The first was a men’s game and the second was women’s.

Male and female athletes at UGA are valued and treated quite differently across sports,” Hannah Stumpf, a sophomore diver at the University of Georgia said. 

University of Georgia men’s basketball game against the University of South Carolina on Feb. 3, 2024 in front of a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum (top) compared to the University of Georgia women’s basketball game against Vanderbilt University on Feb. 11, 2023 with many empty seats (bottom). (Photos/Lily Brody)

Interest in women’s sports is low and female athletes are suffering when it comes to viewership. As a result, they struggle to gain notoriety and ultimately to obtain name, image and likeness (NIL) deals.

Male sports are given so much more airtime, billboards, and general fan attention,” said Chamblee Russell, a senior volleyball player at Georgia Southern University.

“This provides those men with a platform to promote whatever they choose when there are comparable and higher achieving female athletes that just don’t receive the same attention,” she added.

Pay Gap

Male Versus Female NIL earnings in 2022 and 2023
The percent of NIL earnings in 2022 and 2023 by gender, from a study done by Opendorse.

During 2023, NIL spending reached upwards of $900 million.  Opendorse, a leading NIL marketplace, projects profit to increase to $1.175 billion in 2024. Although NIL monetization is projected to increase, it has not proven equal success for both male and female athletes.

Male athletes have made close to 70% of total NIL earnings in the previous two years.

ON3 is the leading index in determining an athlete’s NIL value. Currently, eight of the top 10 ON3 NIL athletes are male. Only six female athletes break the ON3 top 100, creating an NIL gender pay gap.

In addition to the number of deals and financial compensation, male and female athletes differ in the types of NIL deals offered. Russell, the only player on her team with a deal which provided monthly compensation, expressed her feelings toward the gap.

“I think there is a big gap between male and female NIL and the types of brands who reach out to us,” Russell said. “Most male athletes have deals with protein powders, energy drinks and other sport advancing products, while most female athletes primarily receive athleisure products to model and promote on Instagram. I think there is a clear gap in who the performance industry is interested in.”

Although discontent with the gap, Stumpf acknowledges the desire for football partnerships, following Georgia’s back-to-back national championship victories. 

“Through the media, Georgia gained lots and lots of attention as a school and as an athletic association,” Stumpf said. “NIL deals for the males at UGA skyrocketed due to the rise in awareness of men’s sports here. The deals and brand names want just as much as awareness for themselves as the school presents, allowing them to flood big named male athletes with offers to work with them.”

History of NIL

NIL is the concept that student-athletes are able to profit off of their name, image and likeness. Businesses are able to partner with these athletes by providing financial compensation for services such as autograph signings, product endorsements, social media posts and more.

The NIL debate has gone on for years, sparking a multitude of conversations, NCAA meetings and congressional hearings. Laws and regulations surrounding NIL have continued to evolve since their inception in 2019 and legalization in 2022.

While the public reports mixed emotions to the profitability of student-athletes through NIL, senior volleyball player at Georgia Southern University Chamblee Russell sees the positives. 

“I like the concept of NIL and the power it has given back to athletes to be able to seek merchandise and become their own brand, rather than an extension of a university,” Russell said.

In her freshman year, Stumpf did not participate in NIL, and while she does not currently have any deals or partnerships, she is hopeful about the future. 

“As a sophomore this year, I finally decided to throw my name out there and reach out to brands that I could see myself potentially working with,” Stumpf said. “The realization that college athletics is not forever finally hit me, and I figured I better make the most of my time here.”

Lower Interest in Women’s Sports

Preference of male over female sports is not specific to the University of Georgia, college athletics, nor is it a new issue. 

Male teams in general tend to receive majority of the praise,” Stumpf said.

“The events and recognition nights for male and female athletes are inclusive and seem to be equal among men and women, yet somehow on a typical day-to-day basis the men’s sports are noticeably more valued and remembered.”

Recently, the NCAA announced a new eight-year deal with ESPN to own NCAA tournament broadcasting rights worth $920 million. Women’s basketball was lumped into this deal and not sold separately, like men’s March Madness tournament, perpetuating the value of male sports above female.

Efforts to Combat Inequality

As the monetization of name, image and likeness continues to grow in popularity since its legalization in 2022, universities have begun to implement their own education in regards to NIL. 

The University of Georgia’s athletic association has enforced mandatory meetings throughout the year to educate its athletes. Stumpf explained that in these meetings, athletes are taught about how NIL works and what it means to attach their name to an NIL deal without jeopardizing their team or the university in any way.

While there is no quick fix to the current NIL gender pay gap, many universities have created collectives to help their own athletes monetize as much as they can. The University of Georgia launched an initiative to aid athletes with gaining notoriety and NIL deals.

The Classic City Collective provides a one-stop shop for fans and businesses to connect with UGA athletes through donations and deals of many kinds. Many other schools have adopted similar approaches, with hopes of maximizing student-athlete profitability.

Lily Brody is a senior majoring in journalism with a certificate in sports media.



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