College Athletes Score, Cutting Deals as a New Marketplace Is Born

by Msnbctv news staff

Tom McMahon, who oversees Florida operations for Milner, the business technology company that extended offers to Jones and three other women, said in an interview that his firm had chosen the athletes with their online presences in mind. But he said he was betting that appearances at clinics held at Y.M.C.A.s would deepen relationships with clients who might bring their children to meet local stars and Olympic hopefuls.

“You can come to that event, hopefully bring a child with you, your son or daughter, and we create an experience for them, and there’s always that connection,” he said. “It fits our budget, the kids win and everyone wins.”

And so on Thursday morning Jones, the national runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles last month, talked through the offer with her mom. Jones, 19 and an aspiring lawyer, wanted to study the contract and consider whether the offer was fair.

“They want me to go speak to three Y.M.C.A.s,” Jones, who first noticed at a fifth grade field day that she had some speed, said with a smile and an even voice.

“That could be kind of awesome,” replied her mother, Gwen Weaver, who had just counseled her daughter to research the reputations of any companies that sought her time. They talked through the schedule of payments, and Jones made plans to call an official at Icon Source to ask a few more questions. She leaned toward accepting.

Backed by a full scholarship and a stipend of $2,000 per semester from Central Florida, she said she was not seeking a fortune — maybe some spending money, maybe something for savings, maybe cash toward a car. She is also not looking for deals that take over her calendar, which just featured her first appearance at the Olympic trials.

“I definitely want to rely on flexibility and just not stressing myself out,” said Jones, who is heading toward her sophomore year but has already grown frustrated by N.C.A.A. strictures. “It’s a change, but it’s not like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to plan for all these offers I’m going to get.’”

Later on Thursday, she reached out to Icon Source. Soon after, she accepted the offer.

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