UTAH UTES

Red Rocks Greats Pushing Boundaries, Innovating NIL For Utah Gymnastics

Nov 16, 2022, 12:06 PM

Utah Gymnastics vs. Washington...

Utah prepares for the floor exercise as they and Washington compete in an NCAA gymnastics meet at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. No. 4 Utah won 197.475-193.300. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY- The Red Rocks are known for pushing boundaries for women in collegiate athletics and some of the forefathers and mothers of the program are out to do it some more. NIL has been a hot topic and it doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. Several Red Rocks greats have teamed up to do something about NIL in an effort to help the program they built continue to reach new heights.

A Familiar Cast Of Utah Gymnastics Characters

Who Rocks The House is an NIL collective solely dedicated to Utah gymnastics and is believed to be the first collective in the country just for female student-athletes. Best yet, WRTH’s board is filled with names Red Rocks fans should recognize. Former head coaches Greg and Megan Marsden, former Athletic Director Chris Hill, former SID Liz Abel, and former athletes Missy Marlow and MyKayla Skinner are just some of the people involved to make sure the culture of Who Rocks The House meets the Utah gymnastics standard that has been in place for over 45 years.

Another name long-time fans of the Red Rocks might recognize in conjunction with Who Rocks The House is Executive Director Kim Allen Brunisholz. Brunisholz (Allen at the time) was a student athlete for Utah gymnastics from 2000-2003 and recently served a two-year stint as President of the Alumni Association at the University of Utah in 2020.

“I think speaking for myself, and I bet many of my teammates would say the same thing, our experiences at Utah forever changed our lives and our trajectory,” Brunisholz said. “I’m here today because Greg and Megan Marsden invited me to be a part of Utah, to be a part of that team. It’s critical- when we started to see NIL unfold- we needed to do this right. There was some concern around how it was going. We needed to do this right. We needed to get a group of us to plan this out and we saw NIL differently. We were able to use this new legislation as a vehicle to help invest in these student athletes and to bring in those fans.”

No detail was left out from the name of the collective- derived from the cheer the team has done between beam and floor for ages, to the people involved and making decisions, to making sure all donations go directly to the student athlete, and of course making sure the community gets something positive out of it too.

Philanthro-Fans

Brunisholz along with the rest of the heavy-hitting WRTH board wanted to create something ethical that has purpose and really spoke to the brand of Utah gymnastics. That meant coming up with a concept that not only helped the current gymnasts, but also helped the community as well.

“At Who Rocks The House, we have carved out a niche that is really the non-commercialized side of NIL,” Brunisholz said. “We don’t have a profit-motive. We are anchored to the concept of building the student athletes, building the program, and building our community.”

One of the biggest advantages Who Rocks The House has identified for themselves is a steady and loyal fan base that they want to feel included without having to spend a ton of money or worrying about where the money is going. Brunisholz and the rest of the WRTH board view this gymnastics-centric collective as a way for fans to be even more engaged with the Red Rocks and for the Red Rocks to engage more with them as well.

“We’ve got these great Utah fans- the foundation of our program and we have this opportunity to bring in these fans through small donor donations,” Brunisholz said. “In return for those donations to join Who Rocks The House alongside the rest of us, our fans are provided with new ways to engage with the team. Through this new age of NIL, we have actually termed the phrase of ‘philanthro-fan’. This is really philanthropy- anyone who joins Who Rocks The House with any level of donation will automatically be given that title. The idea is because all of the administrative costs are being handled by our founding group, when a fan gives Who Rocks The House ten bucks, that fan knows that whole ten dollars is going to be used to support the athlete and really engage in activities in the community.”

It was also very important to the founders of Who Rocks The House to take the temperature of what the current gymnasts wanted in a collective and thankfully both sides were in complete agreement. According to Brunisholz, the Red Rocks already have a long list of people and organizations they want to help with their name, image, and likeness throughout Salt Lake City.

“The gymnasts themselves have been involved from the beginning,” Brunisholz said. “This is not only an important piece to us, but this was critical to the athletes. I asked them what types of community projects or community areas they wanted to work in and we got a long list of organizations and areas they were passionate about. I know from my time on the team and the girls today- they, NIL is much more than just a paycheck to them. They want to have a meaningful example of the ways they can influence their brand to help others in the community. I think that is the synergy here. It came from the team, they want these meaningful engagements because it really speaks to our interest and our alignment.”

First Big Event

Who Rocks The House will be holding their first event in alliance with Girls on the Run this Saturday at 10 a.m. MT at Sugarhouse Park. The Red Rocks will be there passing out medals and giving high-fives to young girls who are completing their first 5K race.

“We have our first event coming up and we are so excited,” Brunisholz said. “On Saturday, November 19, Utah gymnastics in partnership with Girls on the Run- a community-based organization, non-profit will be at Sugarhouse Park, handing out medals and high-fives to little girls as they cross the finish line of their first 5K. The idea is that we are investing in the student athletes and the student athletes are getting to impact the community in very meaningful ways. For example, with Girls on the Run, it’s issues that are tied to them and meaningful to them.”

Brunisholz along with the rest of WRTH recognize this moment as another historic step in a program that has had over 45 years of significant impact for female athletes not only in the state of Utah, but nationally as well.

“This is a historic moment for us,” Brunisholz said. “I think we need everyone thinking about how to keep this team at the top of their game, at the top of their abilities. We want to be the top program in the country year, after year. This is just one more way for all of us to be a small piece of that legacy.”

It Can’t Be Done Without U

The Red Rocks have been the perfect storm of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people and Brunisholz hopes Who Rocks The House can capture more of that magic. Whether you look at the Marsdens and their insistence that their student athletes were worth supporting back when it wasn’t common to care about women’s sports, Chris Hill believing in their cause and throwing his weight at it, or just the student-athletes who came in and bought the vision- Utah gymnastics has been a force unlike any other. The biggest factor of all though? The fans.

“It comes down to Utah- the community, the fans at Utah,” Brunisholz said of the Red Rocks’ long-standing success. “That is our secret sauce. That is what continues to move us ahead as compared to some of these other schools. We are a leading school, leading attendance records- this is just what we do at Utah and I think as we think about how Who Rocks The House Collective fits into that, it helps us. We are investing today in current student athletes and by default we are investing in the future of the University of Utah- especially the gymnastics program.”

Getting Involved

Brunisholz says the best way to get involved with Who Rocks The House is to visit their website, whorocksthehouse.com. She also wants to emphasize being a part of WRTH isn’t about emptying out your pockets but chipping in what you can with a bunch of other fans who are passionate about the Red Rocks to give the young women on the team, as well as the Salt Lake Community opportunities and memories they will never forget.

“So many people are doing a great number of things with NIL and several of us- the who’s who of gymnastics in Utah- we really had this mindset that we could build momentum behind the program- the legacy of this program,” Brunisholz said. “I think we are all ecstatic that we’ve really uniquely been able to structure this collective to fit Utah gymnastics specifically. I think being able to do this for our student athletes and helping to get our fans in the game of NIL- we know our fans. Many of them are students, young gymnasts, or families so we are really excited about the opportunity to have them join us in creating something historic here at Utah.”

 

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

 

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Red Rocks Greats Pushing Boundaries, Innovating NIL For Utah Gymnastics