Big college football programs are coming for your quarterback

Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman after a 27-17 win over the Missouri Tigers after the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl college football game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa FL on December 23, 2022.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman after a 27-17 win over the Missouri Tigers after the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl college football game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa FL on December 23, 2022. Credit: Getty Images

Given that the college football bowl season also now acts as an open season for potential transfers due to the NCAA’s new transfer windows, part of the bowl game buildup deals with rumors. North Carolina’s Drake Maye has been the subject of speculation, and even his own head coach helped fuel it.

Maye certainly didn’t play Wednesday night’s Holiday Bowl against Oregon with an impending exit hanging over his head. Yes, the Tarheels extended a 13-point lead, but that had more to do with Mack Brown taking the points when he went on the jugular in the fourth quarter with a fourth and a goal from the two.

Of course, the Ducks ended up winning 28-27 due to an extra point taken, but that’s not the point. The point is that Maye played pretty well — as he’s done all season — and while he’s not yet qualified for the NFL Draft, his performance this year was good enough to nett a reputed $5 million -Get a ZERO deal to fill a void elsewhere. Native Heel has said he’s not trading Carolina Blue for another school’s colors, so kudos to him.

Further west in the state, however, that’s a different story. Wake Forest has had one of the most successful runs in Winston-Salem history, and longtime quarterback Sam Hartman has put his name on the portal. He has 12,967 yards and 110 touchdowns for his career in black and scrap gold, but it looks like any other numbers he amasses will come as a golden domer, with reports putting him to South Bend. There are no rumors of a raise, but I’m sure being QB1 at Notre Dame has its perks and zero deals.

This is worrying for many reasons, but the main reason is that have-nots fans are increasingly losing their shit because the blueblood programs are not only poaching their trainers, they are now trying to poach players as well. Being a true triple-A club for the teams you can’t compete with already gets me excited, and the school I’m passionate about is not threatened by that fate. At least not yet. (I hope.)

Look, I see. No one will lose sleep over the Demon Deacons. They are not a traditional football powerhouse and they followed an 11-win season with an eight-win season. If Hartman wants to spend his final college ball season at Notre Dame battling for a playoff spot, that’s cool.

It’s really messed up now that a quarterback who tops his program is an instant target for a big school with no signal callers because of the free agency bonanza the portal created.

Maye had a dalliance with Alabama during the recruiting process before eventually ending up at Chapel Hill, and considering the post-Sugar Bowl Tide will be without planned top-three pick Bryce Young, the machine needs to keep rolling. They’ve lost twice to crazy endgames and the grip has slipped so much that Jalen Milroe, who looked dynamic in fill-in duty for Young, is a risk. One of the biggest pain points of top programs is turnover, and while you can give reps to any other position, quarterbacks are the great unknown. So why not look for a tried and tested commodity if available?

And since universities technically can’t offer huge “contract extensions,” there’s little to no incentive for athletes to stay loyal to them. Disgruntled 19-year-olds aren’t the only ones seeking greener pastures. The presence, opportunity and situation in Tuscaloosa is as alluring to small school star players as South Beach is to LeBron James. (Small market, small school, same difference.)

If only there was a way to keep your best players, you know, something like a raise. While I didn’t have to tie any of this to paying unpaid labor, it’s fun and happens to be at least one way to keep the big bank from always taking over the little bank.