Today, I see that Trey Knox, a wide receiver for a university in northwest Arkansas, has inked a deal with PetSmart. Here’s how the press release reads, in part:
“The social-focused partnership with Knox pairs PetSmart with the football star and his Husky, Blue, highlighting Knox’s love for Blue and the lengths PetSmart will go to support pets and pet parents.”PetSmart
The press release doesn’t dive into the financial details of Knox’s deal. But the NIL agreement means there is no restriction on compensation. So long as the cash doesn’t come from the school, the money is clean and the sky is the limit. Trey Knox was a highly publicized 4-star recruit for [NWA SCHOOL] whose hip injury last season has prevented him from producing endorsement-deal stats. But Knox is the first in Arkansas to receive an endorsement deal anyway. Look to see a number of [NWA SCHOOL] players ink deals that reflect their love for pets, cars, motorcycles, pants, six inch sub sandwiches or whatever.
What the NIL means for student athletes is that they can earn money on their talent and fame. (Fine by me.) What the NIL means for the state’s media is that it can crown any student a King Money Maker of its choosing. (Not fine by me). With most of Arkansas’ media in the pocket of [NWA SCHOOL], it’s hard to see how this doesn’t create another unfair advantage for an athletic program already given all the advantages.
Knox (who caught seven passes in 2020) is harvesting cabbage seeded by glowing coverage from the state’s relentless [NWA SCHOOL] media machine. This isn’t an observation fermented by sour grapes. Simply check out your Twitter feed during any [NWA SCHOOL] game and note the state’s prominent sports journalists and personalties gleefully engage in the moment. Those same personalties magically become crickets when Arkansas State and other state programs are in action.
Media coverage will never be equal for college sports programs in Arkansas. The Machine is too self-aware, self-centered and too hungry for eyeballs and clicks. If Red Wolves expect to receive a fair share of NIL opportunities, Arkansas State University must work even harder to build more relationships with statewide media outlets, promote its star players and accelerate its brand awareness. This is a hard ask, I know. The cost is high and the roadblocks many.
In the meantime, Arkansas State’s nationally ranked bowling team had better see some Brunswick cheddar soon.