Gearhart whitewashes UA athletic depart. | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gearhart whitewashes UA athletic depart.

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 1:51 PM

I just had my attention called to an article by Nate Allen in today's Northwest Arkansas Times (not behind the subscription wall at the moment) on the University of Arkansas athletic department's failed effort to get a kickback from those signed up to provide medical services to Razorback sports teams.

The article represents a stumble for UA Chancellor David Gearhart, who's been off to a good start at Fayetteville. In it, Gearhart unconditionally backs Athletic Director Jeff Long's alibi that it was just an oversight that the athletic department failed to provide all relevant slides from a PowerPoint presentation to a Freedom of Information Act request from Arkansas Business. The missing slide, obtained elsewhere by AB, showed the athletic department was seeking $450,000 in "sponsorships" from medical groups hoping to serve athletes. Slimy stuff, if  the way of the modern collegiate athletic world. Nothing is free. Gearhart admits to Nate Allen that appearances aren't so great, but after much explanation, says:

“I am confident after talking to Jeff and others that they were not trying to hide anything or create any problem in that regard.”

One big problem with Gearhart's defense: According to Arkansas Business, Jeff Long plainly told reporter Chris Bahn that there were no plans for sponsorships -- until Long was confronted with the slide missing from the batch turned over to AB. THEN he said, “Oh, yeah, we did tell them that, and I apologize you didn’t get that info.” What a coincidence the missing piece solved the puzzle. Long then told Bahn that the sponsorship idea was just a "negotiation tactic." But do you think he'd have refused the money had a medical group offered it?

I wonder if Nate pressed UA counsel Scott Varady on the handling of this FOI request. It makes you wonder what other documents get overlooked when reporters come calling at UA. Also: Is the UA purging computer files so as to be able to claim it's fully complied with requests without having to divulge embarrassing information? Gearhart's investigation amounted to giving Long an opportunity to craft an alibi. And he prounounced it good.



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