Gophers wrestler must choose music or sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Joel Bauman is a wrestler. He’s also an aspiring musician.

Now, the NCAA is telling the University of Minnesota student that he can’t be both.

Bauman received word late last week that if he wants to continue to compete with the Gophers wrestling team, he will have to remove his music from various online websites or change his name on the songs to an alias. The redshirt sophomore said he plans to do neither.

“It’s probably not going to come down,” Bauman said. “I have ways that I’m trying to work to do both. The goal is to work to do both, but I’m not going to take it down. They said I could go by an alias or something. I don’t plan on going by an alias, but I do have a plan to make it happen.”

For the time being, Bauman is barred from competing for the Gophers, but he can still practice with the team. He remains on scholarship but won’t be able to hit the mat again until changes are made to his budding music career.

“I plan on practicing,” said Bauman, who has had multiple concussions during his time at Minnesota. “I’m on the team. That’s one of my obligations.”

The University of Minnesota’s compliance office conducted an investigation of Bauman’s music and met with the wrestler to inform him that he must either remove the music and his photo or use an alias. 

“We are certainly sympathetic of Joel,” said J.T. Bruett, the school’s compliance director. “But based on NCAA legislation in this area, student-athletes are not allowed to use their name, image or status as a collegiate student-athlete to promote the sale of a commercial product, including songs affiliated with a music career.”

It’s not the first time the NCAA has asked a student-athlete to put his or her music career on hold. In 2010, a women’s soccer player used her name and picture to promote her band, according to an NCAA reinstatement case report. After her school issued a cease-and-desist letter, she was forced to shut down the websites promoting her music before returning to competition.

Bauman said he won’t follow that path, stating multiple times that he plans to keep the music online. Since the NCAA’s decision came down, Bauman has received plenty of support from family, friends and teammates.

“From a personal standpoint, the people that know me, they’re really supportive. They know me. They know when I do something, I want to do it,” he said. “It’s been awesome, but you’re going to have people that hate on you in the shadows. I know that’s there and I know that it’s coming, but I’m not worried. I’m very content and I’m very blessed to be where I’m at.”

Wrestling has long been a passion for Bauman, who was a two-time state champion at Kerkhoven-Murdock High School, a small school two hours west of Minneapolis. He began wrestling as a kindergartener and now competes for the Gophers at 197 pounds.

But Bauman has another passion besides wrestling, and that’s music. It’s something that he started doing “as a release” when he was younger and has since grown to the point where his songs are posted on YouTube and are for sale on iTunes and The video for his song titled “Ones in the Sky,” featuring Ash Webb, had more than 23,000 views on YouTube as of Wednesday.

His songs don’t necessarily conform to one specific genre of music. Bauman said he dabbles in guitar but also has songs that could be classified as hip-hop or rock. His musical inspirations are equally as varied.

“I literally listened to anything from Mozart and Beethoven to Five Finger Death Punch and everything in between,” said Bauman, a sociology major. “A lot of rock is kind of my inspiration. I love rock and I love the progressions and I love that type of stuff.”

Ultimately, Bauman’s goal is to be an inspiration to others and provide positivity in other peoples’ lives, whether that’s on the wrestling mat or with a microphone in his hand. 

At least for now, though, he has to choose one or the other. 

“Music isn’t necessarily the goal. A lot of people think that music is the goal. It’s not necessarily the goal. It’s a tool to allow me to get the goal. The goal is to inspire,” Bauman said. “I truly believe I was put here on this earth to make a difference and I was put here to inspire and impact people, and that’s what I’m going to do. It’s going to happen.”

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