February 28, 2024

New Hotel Bethlehem ice cream sundae shows changing NCAA rules

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Hotel Bethlehem shared the fruits of a new name, image and likeness…

New Hotel Bethlehem ice cream sundae shows changing NCAA rules

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Hotel Bethlehem shared the fruits of a new name, image and likeness partnership with Lehigh University wrestler Ryan Crookham at a meet-and-greet in the hotel’s ice cream parlor Sunday.

The event debuted the Ryan Crookham Sundae, a chocolate-and-peanut-butter-cup ice cream concoction of the wrestler’s own design.

It also unveiled the Lehigh Valley’s unique avatar of new NCAA rules and their impact on college sports.

Crookham — a redshirt freshman currently ranked No. 1 nationally in the 133-pound weight class — last month inked a name, image and likeness deal last month to represent Hotel Bethlehem as a community ambassador.

Ryan Crookham

Crookham — a redshirt freshman currently ranked No. 1 nationally in the 133-pound weight class — last month inked a name, image and likeness deal last month to represent Hotel Bethlehem as a community ambassador.

Born and raised in the Valley, he won three state championships from 2019-22, wrestling for Saucon Valley and Notre Dame high schools.

Seemed natural to partner

For decades, college athletes were forbidden from signing the sort of lucrative sponsorship and endorsement deals common in professional sports.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the national body governing college athletics, changed its policies in 2021 to let college athletes get paid for use of their name, image or likeness — for example, by naming an ice cream sundae after them.

“Once the NIL thing started, I knew it would eventually kind of come down to wrestling and I want Lehigh to be able to stay competitive.”

Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines

“Once the NIL thing started, I knew it would eventually kind of come down to wrestling and I want Lehigh to be able to stay competitive,” said Hotel Bethlehem Managing Partner Bruce Haines, a Lehigh alum.

At the time, Crookham was a three-time state champion, and Hotel Bethlehem was a three-time “national champion” in USA Today’s ranking of historic hotels, Haines said.

So it seemed natural to partner with the “one other entity in Bethlehem that is nationally recognized, and that’s Lehigh wrestling,” he said.

“From a young age, I’ve been to Hotel Bethlehem multiple times,” Crookham said. “I think it represents the Lehigh Valley very well, so right away I was really interested in the partnership.”

‘Extra money goes a long way’

The hotel pays Crookham “the market rate for somebody to be a PR person a few times a month if we were to hire somebody,” Haines said, though he declined to give an exact figure.

“Obviously there’s a financial aspect as part of the NIL deal, but I gain a lot of knowledge, too, from someone who has ran and is running a successful business in the Lehigh Valley.”

Ryan Crookham

“As a Division I wrestler, it feels like the amount of hours we’re putting in is pretty equivalent to a job,” said Crookham, totaling more than 30 hours a week.

“We obviously don’t have the opportunity to go and work, so just having the opportunity to get these NIL deals is really, really awesome.

“Even if you have a scholarship, the extra money goes a long way.”

In addition to promoting the hotel, Crookham will spend time learning about its operations in something like an internship, geared toward giving business world experience for after he graduates.

“Obviously there’s a financial aspect as part of the NIL deal, but I gain a lot of knowledge, too, from someone who has ran and is running a successful business in the Lehigh Valley,” Crookham said.