Close up shot of a basketball showing the seams

Close up shot of a basketball showing the black seams

Tusk to Tail: Connecting athletes with non-profits

Since there are no college sports played in July and August, the sports media has to come up with other sports related topics to fill the gap. Tusk To Tail is no different, and so a few of us attended a recent meeting in Fayetteville of the Athlete Advocate Consortium where news was made on name, image and likeness (NIL) deals for certain Razorback basketball players.

Admittedly, I had not been paying much attention to the recent news articles on NIL. Maybe I’m showing my age, but it just seems like the NCAA’s change of heart on allowing players to receive money while in college appears to me that it will turn college athletics into a contest of whoever can pay players the most will get the best players.

When I saw Nick Saban mention that 31 of his football players have seven figure NIL deals, that did nothing but reinforce my disdain for allowing NIL deals. And if Alabama is doing it, then everyone feels they have to keep up with the Joneses. The Matador Club, the Texas Tech booster club organization, announced a few weeks ago that all 100 members of its football team will receive $25,000 for playing football this year. One friend’s reaction was “What a great time to be a mediocre college athlete!”

That said, I understand completely that this is the new normal, and if we don’t compete, the gap will widen even more between the University of Arkansas and the traditional conference powerhouses.

I have heard the radio talk shows where people call in stating the “big money” people in the state need to pool their money so we can compete with the other SEC schools. I assumed this announcement was the Razorbacks‘ attempt to keep up with the NIL competition.

Thankfully, this announcement was different. Sure, the Athlete Advocate Consortium (AAC) is being led by Bryan and Mandy Hunt, and a part of the program is providing money to Razorback athletes. However, their idea is to take this new “need” (paying players), and to turning it into a positive for both the players and the community.

In short, players are matched with nonprofit organizations, and in exchange for receiving NIL money from the AAC, each player is required to perform certain tasks on behalf of that organization, mainly appearances and generation of social media traffic. As Bryan Hunt said, the AAC supports the athletes, and the athletes support the nonprofits. Through this effort, the athletes are able to learn about the value of philanthropy and giving back to their community. It sounds pretty simple, but most great ideas are.

At Monday’s event, the AAC announced three matches between athletes and nonprofit organizations for the upcoming year. First, Jalen Graham, a transfer from Arizona State, is paired with the Samaritan Community Center, which provides food and clothing to those in need. Jordan Walsh is being matched with The Jones Center, a community recreation, education and events center located in Springdale. Lastly, the AAC announced that the entire Razorback basketball team would be paired with the Children’s Safety Center, which provides a multifaceted support network for victims of child abuse.

If you wonder if this is something being copied by other schools, the Hunts noted that Purdue University reached out to the AAC team on how to model a similar program there.

Congratulations to the Hunt family and AAC for using the NIL initiative to provide a positive impact across the northwest Arkansas area, and for being an example to the world of college athletics with this program. To quote the AAC motto, “Don’t just play the game. Change it for good.”

Editor’s note: Now in its 10th year, Tusk to Tail is the sport of tailgating as organized, performed and perfected by a group of Hog fans who have been tailgating together sober and otherwise for more than a decade. The primary focus of Tusk to Tail will be to follow the Hogs through the fans’ perspective with their insightful, irreverent, smart-alecky and sometimes practical style. The diehards may also be followed on their Facebook page. Or follow the crew on Twitter and Instagram, all @TuskToTail.

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