Joel Bauman and the Hypocrisy of the NCAA
by Matthew Roth
Joel Bauman isn’t a household name. At least not yet. But he’s received a bit of national attention as he’s become one of the latest collegiate athletes to face the wrath of the NCAA. What makes Bauman unique is that his offense wasn’t due to an association with a booster or a failed drug test. For Bauman, it was because of his new found rap career.
Bauman is a red shirted sophomore for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, a powerhouse in college wrestling. He chose the school because of the legacy of their wrestling program and its ability to produce National Champions and All-Americans.
But Bauman isn’t just a college wrestler, he’s also an aspiring hip-hop artist. He’s recorded a song called “Ones in the Sky” which you can find on iTunes. He also filmed a video for the song which currently has 60,000 views on YouTube.
The video was played at the Golden Gophers meet against Iowa earlier this year. Bauman got approval to do this from the University’s compliance office, which is the governing body in charge of the making sure that athletes follow the NCAA’s rules.
So when the NCAA took away his eligibility for the remainder of the season, Bauman was shocked. Apparently, recording a song and selling it on iTunes is a violation of the NCAA’s policy regarding student-athletes getting paid off of their likeness.
“What happened was that the compliance office approved it to be shown at the Minnesota-Iowa meet. But they didn’t do all their research. They later found out that I wasn’t supposed to be doing whatever I was doing. I really don’t think they would have found out anything if they never showed the video. The NCAA would have never found out about it.”
Whether they would have found out or not isn’t the issue. The NCAA feels that Bauman has violated their rules and has punished him for it.
The issue is that the NCAA has continued to ignore entire teams for committing the same violations. Harlem Shake videos recently became the rage for corporations and college students alike, many of which were athletes for notable programs. It’s similar to last year’s Call Me Maybe craze when various college baseball and softball teams posted videos on Youtube.
“The rules are the rules. I’m gonna work with them. I broke a rule or whatever. Do I agree with it? No. You look at all the Harlem Shake videos. You have schools doing those videos. You’ve got guys, I know a lot of guys that have their stuff up. There’s people who are singing songs or doing covers. I see that and the Harlem Shake videos and I’m just thinking ‘what’s the difference between mine being on iTunes?’ I broke the rules and I deserve to be punished but I’m gonna figure out a way to make it all happen.”
Just posting videos on Youtube isn’t against NCAA rules. Players can utilize social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, without any fear of losing eligibility. The problem is that by using Google Adsense, these videos are able to get monetized by hosting advertisements.
The payment per view is very small; however, get enough views, and Google will cut you a check. Speaking from experience, it is very possible to earn several hundred dollars just by hosting videos on Youtube.
This issue is what has left Bauman scratching his head.
If these athletes can monetize their Harlem Shake videos, and get paid by using their likeness and often their University’s facilities, why is he the one who has lost his athletic eligibility?
“Think about this…I was watching some of those Harlem Shake videos. You’ve got people from different sports teams. All those people have monetized their Harlem Shake videos. Which means that if they get enough views on it, they can get paid from their videos. And there’s whole teams that are doing that. So if that’s the case…I’m not trying to throw it out there, but it doesn’t make sense to me. That’s what I’m not getting. I just want an answer.”
If you’re confused, you aren’t alone. Bauman’s video for “Ones in the Sky” doesn’t feature any University of Minnesota logos nor is he using the school to promote his music. The video features locations around the Twin Cities and makes no reference to Bauman’s spot on the Golden Gophers’ wrestling team.
“What really upsets me about everything is that they said I was using myself as a student-athlete to pump out my music. I’ve never once said ‘hey, I’m Joel Bauman, a Minnesota wrestler, come check out my music’ or ‘hey, I’m Joel Bauman, a Minnesota wrestler, come to one of my wrestling camps.’ I’ve never done that. I don’t know where they’re getting the whole idea that that was the case. I’ve never done that. I’ve never done that when I posted something. So I don’t know where they’re getting it. They told me I can’t be doing it even though I haven’t been doing it.”
The NCAA’s way to resolve the issue was requesting that Bauman remove the song from YouTube and iTunes or take up a stage name. Bauman thought he could make a different compromise: he’d legally change his name back to his birth name, Tre’Vaun Rashaad Stevenson, and make Joel Bauman his stage name.
It should come as no surprise that the NCAA rejected this logical proposal. But they never explained to him why it wouldn’t be acceptable. But as a determined young man, he won’t be deterred. He mentioned several times that he has another plan that will hopefully appease the NCAA and allow him to continue to wrestle and pursue his music career.
“They never told me. They have never told me what the reason was behind that. I was just told ‘no’ that I can’t associate Joel Bauman with anything other than being a NCAA athlete. So I have no idea. They never told me. I have another plan. It’s going to work out. I’m gonna make it happen. If it doesn’t then we’ll see what happens.”
Issues with the NCAA aside, Bauman is faced with a team that wants him to give up his dreams of being a musician and give his entire focus to the wrestling program. Should he lose his eligibility for next year, he’ll also lose his partial scholarship.
“My coaches talked to me and they gave me the ultimatum. They told me I had to choose between wrestling and music. I told them I have a way to do both. I know that they really want me to focus on wrestling but I need to do both. It is what it is right now. But I plan on doing both. I have a plan for that.”
In classic hip-hop fashion, Bauman plans to issue a response to the NCAA with an upcoming song he plans to release. While it likely won’t be a “beef” track, he’s clearly fired up enough to respond in a way to cut directly to the point.
“My next song that’s coming out is called ‘Wonder That’ and that’s going to be my whole rebuttal of this whole situation. It’s going to allow me to do it and still be eligible. I’m going to follow the rules this time but still get out my message. I’m still going to allow myself to make it happen.”
With aspirations of becoming an MMA fighter and a musician, the hope is that there is a middle ground that will allow Bauman to pursue both passions. But with the NCAA’s unclear stance on what is acceptable and what is not, his future is in question.