OPINION Dudley Dawson

Hunt NIL consortium a positive

Even before the letters NIL - standing for Name, Image and Likeness - entered the lexicon of college athletics, there was much debate over whether "paying" current and future student-athletes was good or bad for the overall landscape.

That has continued after the instillation of the program in July, which has allowed student athletes at Arkansas and other colleges to profit off of themselves instead of just the school for which they play.

It would be ridiculous to opine that both the NIL and the NCAA transfer portals will go along without any pitfalls or problems.

But the one thing I feel fairly certain about is the public announcement Wednesday that Bryan and Mady Hunt, heirs of the global trucking company JB Hunt Transport Services, had formed the Athlete Advocate Consortium (AAC) is a positive thing for Razorback athletes.

Bryan Hunt noted in a press release announcing the AAC that "with great power comes great responsibility' and that the consortium will operate "in the best interests of athletes while making a positive impact on the local community."

Basically the athletes will be paired with a local non-profit organization that will get awareness of its mission and thus more financial flexibility to help.

It should be a win-win and financially beneficial for both the non-profit organizations and the athletes.

First up is Arkansas basketball player JD Notae and Samaritan Community Center, a Northwest Arkansas organization which provides food and resources to people living in need.

Notae said it was something close to his heart because his family went through that hardship when the was young.

This is just the first of what is likely to be a flurry of partnerships that benefit both parties and it will be no surprise if other top companies join in on the movement.

As Arkansas head football coach Sam Pittman is fond of saying or tweeting a lot these days the Hog is strong and with this development, it has the opportunity to help flourish both on and off the field.

A 2022 basketball recruiting class ranked third nationally, a 2023 football class rated the same and a top five 2022 baseball signing class are just part of an overall Arkansas athletic program that is arguably at an all-time high success level.

I'll be transparent in saying that when I was student working for the University of Arkansas basketball program 40 years ago, I thought the books, tuition and monthly stipend were enough.

Athletes back in the day could work some, mostly during the summer, but that went by the wayside when college sports became a year-round deal with the season and the off-season seemingly merging into a full time job.

I am now in favor of the NIL - as well as the transfer portal - but recognize both have to be monitored so it is not a modern-day version of the Wild Wild West.

I've come to that conclusion in part while hosting the Hog Trough Players Forum at The Grove Comedy Club in Lowell on Thursday nights, a way club owner Bill Woodie Adams took to give the student athletes an opportunity to make money and engage with fans.

We have had a variety of different male and female Razorback athletes, who participate in long narrative interview and Q&A forum with Arkansas fans from 7-8 p.m.

Listening to players such as Connor Noland, Zebulon Vermillion, Peyton Paulette, Cam Little, Lucas Coley, Parker Goins, Kayla McKeon, Chris Lykes, Kamani Johnson and Connor Vanover and has been enlightening.

Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson and Razorback offensive lineman Dalton Wagner are the guests this week with linebackers Bumper Pool and Alabama transfer Drew Sanders scheduled for Feb. 3.

It should come as no surprise that the student athlete are in favor or making some money through the NIL, but they have been convincing in their intent on making a difference in the community while doing so.

That is a positive development of which all can be proud.

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