John Daly Tees Off on NIL’s Unsavory Side Seemingly Torpedoing Razorback Football Recruiting

John Daly

It was almost inevitable that intercollegiate sports allowing athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness would eventually open Pandora’s box.

College programs all over the country, especially in major college football, are finding out what kinds of dilemmas this incites as players are being compensated and are allowed to transfer wherever they like, almost regardless of circumstances, with next to no penalty.

The Arkansas football program is no exception as Sam Pittman enters his fifth year, trying to turn back the clock in the wake of last fall’s mostly awful 4-8 campaign.

The long-time offensive line coach is hoping that position group does a little better in 2024 than it did a year ago, but former Arkansas and professional golfer John Daly feels like recruiting the hosses up front who will move the needle here might be a challenge because of financial reasons. “It’s hard for a lineman to snap a football to a guy making $3 million or $4 million and you’re getting free barbecue,” he said Tuesday morning in an interview with the Morning Mayhem on The Buzz 103.7 FM.

Daly is almost certainly referencing former Hogs QB KJ Jefferson, who was making high six figures, if not over a million dollars, through NIL deals. Meanwhile, the guys snapping the ball and charged with protecting him were making a whole lot less.

The barbecue portion was likely a friendly jab at Wright’s BBQ for their sponsoring of the linemen through an NIL program. It seems that the owner took it that way based on his Twitter/X response:

Now, Daly doesn’t appear to be one of those people that thinks that NIL and the portal is ruining everything and you might as well throw up your hands and just cry yourself to sleep every night wondering what happened to the precious sport we once loved.

He just wants what one could argue is a rational gatekeeping in the new age, with some sort of restraints and fairness applied so you don’t have the star players making millions while everyone else is fighting over a $500 Visa gift card every month.

“I think it’s great, the kids should get paid something, but it’s getting a little overboard now,” Daly told Morning Mayhem co-hosts David Bazzel and Roger Scott. “I think once you commit, it’s like, okay, let’s get rid of the NIL thing for a second. You’ve committed, you’ve already signed. Then you should have to at least play for two, three years no matter what.”

That is the model for college baseball. A player can elect to go to the professional ranks as soon as they graduate high school, but if they choose to come to campus, it’s a three-year commitment.

In football, it’s not possible to turn pro, so one has to go to college for a minimum of three years, either a redshirt and playing two, or playing all three.

Where NIL Needs to Be Fixed

Although that doesn’t require that they stay committed to that particular school. Under the current climate, a player could sign with the Razorbacks and then play for two more schools during a three-year collegiate tour, if you will.

Fans are up in arms about that, as they should be. Following your college sports teams over the years used to be about getting to know the players as they stayed 3 or 4 or even sometimes 5 years.

Today’s fans now have to buy a program or keep the roster open on their smartphone or tablet to figure out who’s who, even in the non-major revenue sports. Take women’s basketball, for example. Arkansas’ program has experienced a few major outgoing transfers in the last few months, including former 5-star Jersey Wolfenbarger who recently cast her lot with LSU.

The constant churn, with recruits’ commitments and actual stays at colleges whipsawing back and forth, “is killing our fans and it’s killing our coaches,” Daly said in the radio spot. “Our coaches go bust their ass to go get these kids. They get them, and then if we don’t have a good year, they’ve wasted all that time recruiting these players.”

Especially if those players end up just decommitting and will probably end up going to rival schools, which will likely be the case for in-state offensive lineman Carius Curne of Marion and four-star running back Jamarion Parker, both Razorback commits until Monday. Parker is the No. 4 ranked player in the state of Missouri and owns offers from reigning national champion Michigan, Oregon and seven SEC schools.

Curne is the top-ranked lineman in Arkansas and a top 200 prospect nationally.

While it’s easy to cry “woe is me” when seeing these kinds of departures, it’s also important to remember something’s Trey Biddy pointed out on Drive Time Sports with Randy Rainwater and Rick Schaeffer not long ago: bringing in new Arkansas football players like Fernando Carmona and Anton Juncaj took competitive NIL money, nor could the staff have kept the services of Landon Jackson and Jaylen Braxton without somebody forking over serious dough.

John Daly’s connection and Arkansas’ future

Daly’s own son is currently in the environment, playing golf for the Razorbacks and having success, but golf isn’t the same animal that football, men’s basketball and even baseball is at Arkansas.

Being the celebrity that Daly is, a former two-time major winner and colorful character on the Tour, he certainly is in the position to donate hefty sums of money to the program if he so chooses.

He likely does contribute, but his endowment isn’t on the same level as a Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson would be for Stanford or Arizona State.

Just look at Daly the other day during a celebrity event. He’s hitting warm up shots with one hand and holding a Diet Coke in the other, then skulls his opening tee shot like your friend would do at a weekly outing at a local municipal course.

Daly can afford to go about his business in such a casual manner. As the decommits and apparent NIL disparities rack up, Pittman cannot. 

The 1991 PGA and 1995 Open Champion has a point, even if linemen earn less than quarterbacks pretty much everywhere. Right now, Arkansas football is on the wrong side of a snowball effect only winning at a high level can reverse.

Hear John Daly’s take on NIL starting at 6:00 here:

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More on Arkansas football from BoAS here:

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