Jeff Long's firing of Petrino brings $1.25 million donation | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jeff Long's firing of Petrino brings $1.25 million donation

Posted By on Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 3:00 PM

TARGETED GIFT: An academic and dining facility for athletes, as shown here in a concept drawing in the Razorback master facility plan, got a $1.25 million boost thanks to Jeff Long.
  • TARGETED GIFT: An academic and dining facility for athletes, as shown here in a concept drawing in the Razorback master facility plan, got a $1.25 million boost thanks to Jeff Long.

University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long has been honored for his "courageous leadership" in handling the Bobby Petrino controversy by $1.25 million in gifts to a facility for university athletes.

The Donald Reynolds Foundation has given $1 million and Board chair Fred Smith has given a separate $250,000 in support of the planned Student-Athlete Success Center, a study center and dining hall for athletes.

Smith's gift also went to rename an existing program the Jeff Long Student-Athlete Development Program.

“The courageous leadership demonstrated by Jeff Long in the course of recent events has further affirmed our confidence in his leadership and his vision for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Arkansas,” Smith continued. “Mr. Long acted with integrity and with the best interests of Razorback student-athletes and the University of Arkansas in mind.”

Long said he was surprised and humbled.

Let me launch a small object into the punchbowl. Isn't the current student-athlete development coordinator for the football team on paid administrative leave? Wasn't she placed there for her involvement with Petrino, the man Long demonstrated courage in firing? Are we to read into any of this any hints at resolution of the continuing employment of Jessica Dorrell, the former volleyball player and Razorback Foundation fund-raiser who was hired in a twinkling at Petrino's behest — and with Long's approval — from among 159 applicants despite no previous experience directly in a football program?

The Reynolds Foundation has been a major giver to both the university and UA athletics. The football stadium already bears its name. It was built with $804 million from the sale of the Donrey Media empire to Stephens Inc. of Little Rock. Smith was a top executive and led Donrey after the death of founder Donald Reynolds. He got his start as a newspaper ad salesman in Fort Smith.

PS — Too bad this had to coincide with arrest of Razorback linebacker Tyler Gilbert on burglary and theft charges. He's been suspended from the team.

PPS — WHEN YOU HAVE LEMONS .... You make some lemonade. Tipster tells me that the university PR apparatus has made an order (more than $7,000 worth) of the red cotton T-shirt you see below with the legend: "Integrity goes a LONG way. " A Hog is underneath it. It's going to faculty and staff and student leaders. There are worse things than being known for principled decisions. But some skill players who can run the 40 in 4.8 and bench press about 400 pounds don't hurt either. UPDATE: See jump for story on how shirts came about.

longT.JPG

NEWS RELEASE

Citing “the courageous leadership” demonstrated recently by athletics director Jeff Long, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and its board chair Tuesday announced two separate gifts to the University of Arkansas totaling $1.25 million.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation approved a $1 million gift to help fund the university’s planned Student-Athlete Success Center, a multipurpose academic resource and study center and dining hall for use by the university’s 460 students participating in intercollegiate athletics.

Reynolds Foundation Board Chair Fred W. Smith made a separate, personal donation of $250,000 to support the Student-Athlete Success Center and to rename the university’s existing student-athlete development program as the Jeff Long Student-Athlete Development Program.

“The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is pleased to make a gift to assist in the construction of a new Student-Athlete Success Center and to create the Jeff Long Student-Athlete Development Program at the University of Arkansas,” Smith announced. “For more than 57 years, the Reynolds Foundation has identified and financially supported organizations and their leaders whose vision is to make a lasting impact in the lives of others.

“The courageous leadership demonstrated by Jeff Long in the course of recent events has further affirmed our confidence in his leadership and his vision for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Arkansas,” Smith continued. “Mr. Long acted with integrity and with the best interests of Razorback student-athletes and the University of Arkansas in mind.”

Smith also shared the reasons behind his own personal gift to the university in Jeff Long’s name.

“In addition to the Reynolds Foundation gift, I am honored to make a personal gift of $250,000 to the Student-Athlete Success Center and the student-athlete development program,” Smith stated. “My family is extremely proud of the University of Arkansas and all that it represents. We are grateful to Chancellor [G. David] Gearhart and Vice Chancellor Long for their tremendous leadership and guidance of this great institution that continues to hold a special place in the hearts of the Smith family.”

“The university is extremely fortunate to have the support of the Reynolds Foundation board as well as the support of Fred Smith and his family,” Gearhart said. “Their generous gifts represent an impressive and meaningful expression of support for—and trust in—the leader of Razorback athletics. They also represent a strong commitment to the young women and men who represent our university in intercollegiate athletics as students and as athletes. Both the Reynolds Foundation and the Smith family are making clear their belief in our university and its future.”
“In approving this grant, the Foundation reaffirms our commitment to Razorback Athletics and the University of Arkansas,” Foundation President Steven L. Anderson stated. “Our previous grant to kick off the expansion of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and most recently our $10 million commitment to the football operations center challenged the Razorback faithful to step up their support for the football program. We hope, once again, supporters from across the state and country will show their support of Jeff Long and the athletic program in a meaningful way.”

The Student-Athlete Success Center is one of the proposed facilities outlined in the recently released Razorback Athletic Master Facility Plan. The center will house academic support facilities, including group and individual tutorial rooms, study hall areas, a large auditorium, computer labs, multi-media, career planning, service learning and community service areas.

The center will also include a dining facility that will provide a training table for all 460 student-athletes competing in 19 sports. The dining facility will cater to the nutritional needs of student-athletes while providing the flexibility to meet dining needs of student-athletes on weekends and during other irregular schedules. The facility will also help student-athletes in the efficiency of meeting the many demands of student-athletes by providing a training table located near practice and academic areas.

Conceptual plans present a facility that will range in size from 47,000-58,000 square feet. The total projected cost is $18 million-$23 million. There is currently no timetable for design and construction of the facility which will require approval from the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees.

The Student-Athlete Development Program helps foster the growth of academic, leadership and life skills to benefit student-athletes on and off the field. The existing multifaceted program provides student-athletes with interview and job skills, education about making healthy choices, customized leadership training and provides opportunities for community service.

Long said the news of the donations took him aback.

“When Chancellor Gearhart called to tell me that the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and Fred Smith had made substantial gifts in my name to our university, I was surprised and truly humbled,” Long shared. “I am extremely grateful to the Reynolds Foundation and the Smith family for their continued investment in the lives of Razorback student-athletes and the University of Arkansas. They have been long time advocates of the Razorbacks, the university and the entire state of Arkansas. Their generosity will help us meet our mission of developing student-athletes to their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics. Our student-athlete development program remains a focus of our department and of great importance to me.”

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a private foundation located in Las Vegas, Nev. It has been a long-time supporter of the University of Arkansas and Razorback Athletics. Most recently it provided a $10 million challenge grant for the new football center. More information about the Reynolds Foundation is available at http://www.dwreynolds.org/default.htm

For more information regarding Razorback Athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.

JOHN DIAMOND, ASSOCIATE VICE CHANCELLOR FOR UNIVERSITY RELATIONS, ON THE LONG T-SHIRTS:

Here’s how they came about:

It started with our students. There’s been a tremendous amount of pride and respect expressed across campus for how Jeff Long handled the Petrino decision. Students, faculty and staff spoke in near-unison about the integrity Jeff and others showed in making the decision. We heard that here in our office from student media and from student leaders. As you may have read in the ADG, the faculty gave Jeff a standing ovation when Chancellor Gearhart mentioned Jeff’s name at the Faculty Senate meeting last week. The same thing happened when he was introduced at Friday night’s Silas Hunt Legacy Award.

On Wednesday, someone on one of the local media Facebook pages posted the phrase “Integrity Goes A ‘LONG’ Way!” as part of a thread about the Petrino matter. Another person posted that the someone should make up T-shirts with that phrase on it. Later that day, someone in our office saw it and told me about it. Thus began a discussion.

We talked with student leaders about whether they thought these T-shirts would be a good spirit-builder on campus and would help extend what had been a teachable moment. One of the students, Michael Dodd, said it best. He said giving away the shirts would provide students, faculty and staff a common way to show their pride in the national response to Jeff’s decision, and to the university’s commitment to integrity as a core value. Purchasing a bunch of shirts to sustain that sense of campus pride and commitment to integrity seemed a wise investment.

We purchased 500 shirts and gave them to student leaders to distribute to students, faculty and staff as they wished. Word got out quickly and we ordered 500 more. Funding came from our office’s marketing budget, which is funded through private support. The total cost was $7,035, including tax.

Jeff was not aware that this was going to happen. He found out about it yesterday when he was given one of the shirts.

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