Arkansas NIL Collective Director Gets Taken to Task for Seeking Help

Arkansas football fan, enough shirt
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

For those in Razorback Nation, the state of the union is not very strong.

Yes, no doubt, Arkansas football fan spirits were lifted when word came out that Bobby Petrino would be heading back to the Hill to re-join the program and taking over the offense. Dan Enos to Petrino? Talk about an upgrade. Good Lord, what an upgrade.

And maybe Petrino’s hand-picked quarterback of the future, Taylen Green, turns out to be just as hungry to prove himself as the KJ Jefferson of a few summers back.

Talent, attitude and coaching – the Razorbacks need an upgrade in all areas. On the talent front, they are not too far away. You can’t say the talent cupboard is barren when your team loses by a total of 13 points on the home fields of current No. 5 Alabama, No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 12 LSU. And if you have the players to go to The Swamp with a new offensive coordinator and win, it’s more on the coaches than the players for screwing the pooch against Auburn at home.

Blame the players’ ability, if you want, but to me that’s coaching. If you can’t get your players up to win against this year’s Mississippi State team when the only thing on the line is bowl eligibility, this staff needs to take a long reflective walk in the woods – alone.

Arkansas Football Fans Fire Back

Whatever the issue is, it’s definitely not on the fans’ shoulders to resolve. Arkansas football fans have proven themselves loyal to no end through thick and thin, the latter of which has defined much of the last decade.

That’s why a post on X (formerly Twitter) from the director of the Razorbacks’ revamped NIL collective, Arkansas Edge, recently rubbed so many people wrong. In it, Chris Bauer essentially says he believes with more money pouring into the Razorbacks’ coffers, the Arkansas football recruiting ranking could shoot up into the Top 15 in the coming years:

Then he makes a petition to fans to pitch in and help Arkansas recruit better.

At that point, the walls pretty much came crumbling down.

Fans fired back with just about every type of grumble you could imagine:

“Chris, this is a tough sell and you have a hard job after Hunter Yurachek killed the momentum by not bringing in a new coach,” @UURazorback replied on X. “Fans had to endure embarrassing losses to a terrible Auburn team and our rival Missouri beat our team like a drum on our home field. Fans are tired.”

@RGabs37 weighed in: “Chris, there are 8 SEC schools in these rankings ahead of us with more money/budget and arguably bigger fanbases. You’re simply not gonna raise more money from Arkansas fans than Texas will from theirs by simply asking. Be more realistic and creative in your approach. Please.”

@Side_O_Bacon practically had a conniption fit: “What in the dollar general post is this? Get it together and do better. You are in charge of running a multi-million dollar fund, not a local community tee-ball fund raising event.”

Arkansas football fans are straight up tired of way too much losing and way too few seasons like 2021.  They didn’t need Sam Pittman’s suggestion at the end of the season that a lack of NIL money was partly to blame for not having the kinds of players we need to compete. It sure looked like an excuse from a guy who normally takes responsibility for his errors. 

The fans want to see Razorback leaders take it upon themselves to put a better product on the field, which many feel Pittman and Yurachek did to an extent by hiring Petrino. Still, it’s totally understandable why they would shirk at someone like Bauer asking followers for more support than they have already given decade after decade.

Big Business and Arkansas Football’s NIL Efforts

Some still feel like it’s on the Fortune 500 companies in northwest Arkansas to save the day and help Arkansas compete with Texas, Texas A&M and Alabama when it comes to NIL and recruiting rankings, as we can see in the reply below:

Well, don’t expect the cavalry any time soon.

Unless someone with the last name of Walton has an epiphany that mountain biking and football are not mutually exclusive hobbies, the program will be deprived of Walton wealth.  They’ll stick to building outstanding business colleges and raising eyebrows for purchases near the Buffalo River.    

It may make a bit more sense, at this point, to look toward the future wealth of south Arkansas, which is on the cusp of a boom.

In the coming years, “lithium barons” will live in or around Columbia County and Union County and could compete with the oil barons of Texas who help fund the Aggies and Longhorns’ success thanks to south Arkansas being a mini “Saudi Arabia” of lithium-bearing brine. Lithium is the main ingredient in lithium batteries and demand for it is growing and is expected to continue booming despite a slow-down in electric vehicle market growth.

In fact, between Standard Lithium and ExxonMobil, somewhere around $4.5 billion is being invested in the region, which will, in fairly short order, supply 15 percent of global demand.  

But this vast wealth will not flow into the Arkansas Edge’s NIL coffers as quickly as it took Texas and OU to transition to the SEC – if ever.

Trust me.  I worked in the energy industry for 25 years and I’ve written several editorials about it in my real job. More is being invested in Union County and the rest of South Arkansas than China is investing in lithium throughout all of South America.

In other words, it’s a huge deal, but Arkansas football fans shouldn’t count on this geological gift to transform the Hogs into the Crimson Tide.

The Task at Hand for Sam Pittman

What fans should count on, and what Pittman needs to deliver with the players he has now, is wins against teams that are smaller, weaker and slower than the Hogs. Beat the likes of Liberty, BYU and Mississippi State at home and watch way more fans gladly tack on NIL contributions on top of all the other ways they are already supporting the Hogs. At that point, making a case to get “over the hump” into consistently competing with the big boys is going to sound a lot more legit.

Now, the main job for Sam Pittman is not the same as it is for the head coach of Alabama, Texas and Texas A&M. It’s not to win a national championship or even an SEC Championship.  It’s to coach the Top 25 recruiting classes he’s getting into Top 25 teams in the final poll of the year.  

Pittman is entering his fifth year. If there are players up there who are not ready for primetime, it’s on Pittman and his assistants.

The Hogs had more than enough talent on the field to easily make it to a bowl game this year, but didn’t come close. That’s a problem with, or without, a huge trove of NIL money.


Evin Demirel contributed to the above column.

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