Texas-OU, NIL, Player Transfers and more in this week’s “Ask Mike”

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Q. Our first question is from Ham Porter who asks: Does the rest of the SEC realize what they are getting with a Texas-sized ego joining the conference? Does Texas realize what it’s getting into by joining a conference where they won’t call the shots? I suppose all parties know these changes but they have plenty of reasons (dollars) to make it work.

A. The fact that there hasn’t been more opposition tells me that other than Texas A&M and Missouri SEC teams are looking at dollars and are not worrying about other issues.
There are a lot of things going on here.

Let’s start with the name/image licensing change. It hasn’t taken SEC ADs loing to realize that with all this money suddenly going to athletes, primarily from businesses that donate money to their schools, there’s probably going to be less money going to the schools. So they’ll need to make that up. Adding Texas and OU to the conference TV package will probably up the annual turnback money for each school from 5 to $8 million more per year. That ought to be more than enough to make up any donation losses.

But there may be more going on in the long term. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey is not happy with the NCAA. He didn’t like the way Mark Emert cancelled the NCAA basketball tournament in 2020 without informing member schools first. Supposedly Sankey and other ADs didn’t like the threats the NCAA issued this past sping to schools in states that passed bans on males competing against women as transgenders. These states were largely in the footprint of the SEC. Then there is the change in name/image/likeness rules which was largely brought about by the NCAA getting money from video game sales by offering up athletes who had the same numbers and liknesses as real college athletes. The NCAA got sued and lost.

So there’s talk that the Sankey may have his eye on reducing the power 5 conferences to a power 4 and then at some point leading those schools into a new athletic association a step above the NCAA. Essentially colleges that compete at the upper level of athletics would be grouped together, make their own rules and voting on common interests without having to deal with getting voted down by so called mid major schools.

I’m assuming this new governing body would also be free of politics.

As far as Texas causing issues in the SEC and trying to boss the other schools around, that was easy to do in the Big 12, it’s not happening in the SEC. Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida are right up there in revenues with Texas. This league has too many big boys to let one big boy try to run things. Especially when they’re the new kid on the block.

Also I don’t know about Oklahoma but Texas is going to get a rude awakening in terms of the level of competition in all sports.

Q. RazorRunner wants to know: When a football player transfers to another school, is there anything to keep him from sharing his old school’s playbook with the new school? Is this a matter of concern to schools who have transfers out, especially to competitors?

A. There’s not a lot you can do to stop it. Clearly schools will make sure to get back any playbooks that athlete has but come on, it could be copied.
And even if it’s not copied those players will bring with them a lot of familiarity to any school they go to that plays their former school. Immediate eligibility for one time tranfers is new but the grad transfer system has been in place for years. I haven’t heard a lot of complaints. Basicially you just line up and beat the other guys without worring too much about them having inside information from a former player.

Q: Alex4Hogs88 says: Back in 2008 when Houston Nutt returned to Fayetteville with Ole Miss, there was a rumor that he spat on the Razorback in the middle of the field. Do you believe this was true or just a rumor that just stirred the pot. I was there but I honestly did not see anything like that but I definitely remember the rumor.

A. I didn’t see it either and I went back over game video trying to find it. It was dreamed up by a fans or fans who were mad at Nutt. He might not have been happy with certain boosters, some people inside the athletic department and some of us in the media but he didn’t hate the school. There’s was no way he would spit on the Hog. And of course these days a big supporter of Raazorback athletics. Thankfully those days are far behind us.

Q. racinghog asks: With the news about Texas and OU can you elaborate on why we left the old SWC?

A. There were several reasons and Texas controlling things was not at the top of the list. The biggest issue was money. There were too many SWC schools like Rice and SMU that didn’t draw squat to games. Frank Broyles liked the way SEC schools packed their stadiums. The TV money wasn’t then what it is now but it was still much better in the SEC than the SEC.

Another big issue was the so called church schools, TCU, SMU and Baylor teaming up with Rice, Texas Tech and Houston to defeat proposals which would help Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M. Frank was tired of getting outvoted by the smaller SWC schools.

Then there were the refs. Arkansas found itself in games where the entire officiating crew was from Texas. The fans hated that and Frank knew it. So the belief was, with the SEC spread out throughout mulitple states that wouldn’t happen but, as we see, 29 years after the Hogs left the SWC Arkansas fans still think the Hogs are getting shafted by the refs. That’s not gonna change.

Q. Kdogstew2u says: 2 questions:

  1. Will NIL agreements, for U of A, be public knowledge or will that be kept “under wraps”.
  2. What do you think Saban’s reasom was to go public with the 1 million dollar NIL for his Freshman QB.

A. It’s up to the individual athlete and the complanhy they make the deal with. They can reveal the specifics but they don’t have to. It’s interesting that Saban gave a rough dollar amound for the deal or deals that his freshman QB has always made. I assume he had permisison to do that.

What his motive? It’s obvious. He was telling future QB recruits, come to Alabama and you’ll get immediately rich. And it’s perfectly legal to do that.

Q: Pigsfeat wants to know: What do you foresee Ronnie Brewer and Jon Blake adding to Arkansas basketball?

A. Let’s start with Blake. His title is assistant director for basketball administration. For starters he worked here at KNWA at one time. That’s good. But look, as we’ve seen, whenever possible, Eric Musselman likes to hire people with Arkansas connections and people with a background in professional sports. Blake is from Springdale. He’s an Arkansas alum. He was a graduate assistant in football operations for the Razorbacks from 2016-2018. He was an operations assistant with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and an associate director of football operations at Southern Cal. this past year.

Brewer is the team’s new recruiting coordinator. He was clearly hired because he’s a former All American at Arkansas and NBA first round draft pick. He played 10 seasons, scoring 3,940 points 1,427 rebounds and 828 assists. And he’s given back to the community since retiting from the NBA through the Ronnie Brewer Foundation, a charitable organization that supports youth sports.

Both of those guys look like solid hires.

Q. Pigsfeat has another question: Some Pro athletes are contemplating retiring rather than taking a vaccine shot. Is this the case in college sports as well? Shouldn’t it be personal choice in a free country?

A. We’re talking about two different issues here. Pro sports is a business and we’ve already seen certain businesses across the country, hospitals for example, that are requiring vaccincations for their employees. I think they are on solid legal ground. I don’t know of any college programs that are forcing vaccinations. Arkansas is not for sure. But here’s the truth. There is a greater sense of team first in college sports than say the NFL. So even though you have a choice, the Razorback football team is at 89% on vaccinations and I was told at Media Days last week that it might be close to 100% by the season opener.
I think some of the these NFL teams know that if they don’t force vaccinations the number of unvaccinated players will remain high and that could cause a COVID outbreak and wipe out games.

Q. Lanny says: What’s the deal with these SEC vaccination rate numbers they’re pushing? There’s a PGA golfer that got vaccinated twice and he’s tested positive for COVID two different times since. Is there really much difference between a 60% vaccination rate and 80% if you can still get it?

A. I’m not sure how the SEC arrived at the 80% rate but it’s a big deal. At that rate and above there’s no automatic testing for COVID. The only way a player gets tested is if he get’s sick and there’s no contact tracing of players who have been around a player who got sick and tested positive. So the chances of forfeiting a game because of COVID would seem to be greatly reduced from last year.

But you bring up a good point. his new strain of COVID has infected some people who have been twice vaccinated. But if you read Facebook you get comments from vaccinated individuals who got it and some say they got really sick but survived and they credit the vaccine for that. Former Razorback Blake Eddins is one of them.

The bottom line, just like last year, we’re gonna have to wait and see how much these high vaccination rates are going to normalize college sports this fall.

Q. Razorback Redneck has a similar question: With COVID cases going up dramatically in Arkansas could this derail full capacity crowds for football this season?

A. There’s been no indication of that. If the numbers continue to go up you might see a return of a mask madate. They might do temperature checks at the gate. If it was even more serious proof of vaccination could be required. I think it would take a whole lot to go back to reduced attendance. If they do that there could be some serious budget issues for Arkansas and most of the rest of college athletics.

Q. TL Slaten on Facebook says: I saw you on TV at SEC Media Days. What was your number one takeaway from that?

A. Sam Pittman. It was the first time I’d seen him in a public setting off the football field since right after he was hired. Last year the only time I was around him was on Zooms. Seeing him in person at Media Days was eye opening. Yes he did a good job in front of the media but it was going from room to room in a three hour period that stood out to me. Most coaches walk out of one venue aned right over to another. Pittman was stopping to talk to almost everybody he saw. Hey, how are you? There was an interesting moment when he went from the Marty & McGee show down on Radio Row upstairs to the Finebaum Show. There are people working for each of those venues who show up and take each coach to the next stop. So this guy introduces himself to Pittman and as they start walking Pittman has his arm on the guy’s shoulder talking to him like they’re best friends. They’re laughing and swapping small talk. That went on over and over. I’ve had people who know recruiting tell me for a while now that that’s Pittman’s greatest strength as a head coach. His players will go through a brick wall for him because they know he genuinely cares about them. And in recruiting, now that on-campus visits have resumed, one of the assistant coaches over there told me that recruits are coming in with an average interest in Arkansas and by the time they leave Pittman has won them over. He says by the 2023 class we’re gonna see a big jump in Arkansas’ recruiting and it’s already top 20 right now.

Q. Boss Hawg says: Ga. Southern looks like a trap game to me. Particularly if we beat UT and before playing A&M. Do you think Coach Pittman will have the Hogs ready?

A. I supposed anything can happen but with all the seniors on this team I can’t see Arkansas not being ready for Georgia Southern even if that game is sandwiched between Texas and Texas A&M. Also Chad Morris is not in charge anymore. Sam Pittman will have them ready.

Q. Five Razorbacks made the various Media Days All SEC teams and Treylon Burks was on the first team. But Arkansas was picked 6th in the West. Why am I not surprised? How do you think they’ll do?

A. First of all I would not pay much attention to any Media Days preseason numbers. Beyond picking Alabama at the top almost every year those people are historically wrong.

Right now I’d say 4th or 5th in the West. Maybe an outside shot at 3rd. It would be higher but the schedule is brutal. I do think they will be improved with 19 of 22 starters back, over 20 seniors on the roster and 11 so called super seniors. Guys who are only eligible because of the extra year available because of COVID. Three of them are big time players. Grant Morgan, Myron Cunningham and Blake Kern. The offensive line should be improved from last year. Those guys are bigger and all of the starters return with good depth behind them. I think Arkansas will have an improved running game which will help KJ Jefferson’s passing numbers.

This whole season may hinge on the Texas game. Win that and you’re off to a great start. Lose and it could be very tough.

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