Dayton women’s soccer player signs NIL deal with local restaurant

Alicia Donley joins Malachi Smith as a Hunny Bee’s spokesperson

Alicia Donley learned how to cook chicken tenders and french fries Monday at Hunny Bee’s Crispy Fried on Brown Street. A couple of cameras caught her every move as Joe Niehaus, the co-founder and general manager of the chicken restaurant, walked her through the process.

This is not something Donley will do in her new role as a spokesperson for Hunny Bee’s — this was just for the cameras.

Like Malachi Smith, the Dayton Flyers sophomore point guard, Donley will use her influence on social media to promote the restaurant. She’s a senior starter for the Dayton soccer team, and she has more than 5,000 followers on Instagram and close to 8,000 on TikTok.

Since college athletes earned their name, image and likeness rights in the summer of 2021, the majority of opportunities have gone to the athletes — in football and men’s basketball — who draw the most fans to game and television screens, but there are opportunities for all athletes, something Donley is trying to show. She sought this opportunity.

“I love Hunny Bee’s,” Donley said. “I’m probably here more than I should be. I found Joe and Hunny Bee’s on Instagram. I knew they had represented Malachi Smith, and I wanted to get some female representation. I’m taking hold of my NIL opportunities. I wanted to represent females in soccer. What a better way to do it than with Hunny Bee’s. It’s something I love to eat.”

Explore» SEASON PREVIEW: Itala Gemelli among top players for Dayton this season

Smith signed a NIL deal with Hunny Bee’s in February, not long after his teammate DaRon Holmes II started promoting another local restaurant, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken.

With the Dayton women’s soccer team off to a 6-1-1 start and Donley playing a key role as a defender after last season, this was a good time for Niehaus to partner with a UD player.

“We wanted to do something fun,” Niehaus said, “and what’s more fun than women’s soccer in the fall. Alicia is a friend of the brand who loves Hunny Bee’s, and we thought she was the perfect person to bring onto the team, joining Malachi. She’s a great representative of UD soccer and an awesome person. That’s the smiling face we want.”

Donley is a graduate of Pickerington North High School. She has athleticism in her blood. Her mom Stephanie (Zunich) Donley was a 20-time All-American swimmer and seven-time national champion (five relay titles and two individual championships) at the University of Florida from 1988-91. Her dad Mike Donley ran track at Miami University.

Donley scored 67 goals in her high school career and was a three-time first-team all-state selection. She graduated from high school halfway through her senior year and enrolled early at the University of Tennessee, where she scored four goals in two seasons.

Donley decided to transfer after the 2020 season because she wanted to be closer to home and wanted to go to a catholic school. Religion is important to her, and she said she plays for a higher purpose: to glorify God.

Explore» RELATED: Wittenberg announces partnership to help connect athletes with NIL opportunities

Donley scored five goals and started nine matches last fall at Dayton as the Flyers finished 12-6-2 and 8-2 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Entering their first A-10 match Thursday at Davidson, the Flyers had lost only to Ohio State, 4-0 on Sept. 1, in the first three weeks of the season.

Coach Eric Golz told the team this week it was one of 33 teams from across the nation to enter conference play with six victories.

“That’s really big for us,” Donley said. “We have a great shot, a great opportunity to be great. I think we have a lot of great players all around.”

Donley has one more year of eligibility after this season because the pandemic season of 2020 didn’t count against anyone’s eligibility. She plans to make the most of it by continuing to pursue NIL opportunities and building her personal brand. She’s a communications major who’s working on a minor in marketing, so everything she does will be good for her resume. She also hopes to inspire other athletes to do the same.

“I think there are a lot of people, especially on my team, who can definitely profit from NIL,” Donley said. “Not just the big-name people in basketball, football baseball. They can say, ‘She’s a Division I soccer player, and she’s doing this, and I can do it, too.”

About the Author