By Andrew Peterson
Youngstown State University holds the top-three name, image and likeness earners in the Horizon League.
Women’s basketball players fifth-year senior Lilly Ritz, senior Mady Aulbach and senior Paige Shy brought in the most money out of any other student-athlete through NIL deals.
Ritz said she is grateful for the financial benefits of NIL sponsorships.
“NIL is a really great opportunity for these big businesses to give you the opportunity to make some money now and put some savings in the bank. Just working with these big businesses just creates lasting opportunities,” Ritz said.
Ritz, a business administration major, is averaging just under 18 points per game. Her NIL partnerships have taken her in a couple of directions.
“I worked with Snapchat recently, just had to post and be like an influencer for Snapchat,” Ritz said.
The NIL landscape is commonly dominated by men. Ritz said it feels great to be a woman and make money from such partnerships.
“I feel like social media plays a big part in NIL and I think women are better at social media than men,” Ritz said. “I think that is how women get more opportunities.”
For the past two years, Aulbach has served as team captain of the YSU women’s basketball team and was named to the Horizon League’s All-Defensive Team last year. She said the team’s performance has contributed to the NIL opportunities offered to her and her teammates
“The performance our team had as a whole last year brought a lot of notoriety to the school and made history in many ways, winning the regular season. All of that attention created a lot of opportunities,” Aulbach said.
Aulbach, a digital marketing major, said she’s benefitted from NIL partnerships in a variety of ways.
“It introduces me to a lot of networking opportunities. Getting out there and meeting other NIL athletes, just all of the connections I am forming will help me in my career one day,” Aulbach said. “It is teaching me how to market myself and capitalize off opportunities the best I can.”
Aulbach has developed partnerships with Sam’s Wedge Inn, Mama Bear Law Offices and Allstate. Most recently, she was signed by World Wrestling Entertainment.
Aulbach said she agrees with Ritz that female athletes are gaining recognition.
“It is amazing when three women — me, Lilly and Paige, are among the top of [the highest earners] because obviously, men dominate many things in sports. So, I just think it shows how on the rise female athletes are, in general,” Aulbach said
Last year Shy, a general studies major, led the Penguins with 53 three-pointers and was ranked sixth in the conference in three-pointers per game.
Shy also touched on the future advantages of NIL.
“Definitely for the business side aspects of it like, I have never paid taxes before and NIL has kind of forced me to learn how to,” Shy said.
Shy has partnerships with businesses such as Sam’s Wedge Inn, Powerade and Dunkin Donuts.