Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Horton: Money flow not ebbing
Razorback Foundation Executive Director Harold Horton said Monday the foundation, which is the fund raising arm for Arkansas athletics, has not yet lost a donor since the Bobby Petrino scandal.
FAYETTEVILLE Razorback Foundation Executive Director Harold Horton said Monday the foundation, which is the fund raising arm for Arkansas athletics, has not yet lost a donor since the Bobby Petrino scandal.
“We’ve had four to six people who have called and said they wanted their money back,” Horton said. “I tried to talk to each one of them, and I had one already say he’d continue with his giving.”
The rest of the donors who called have yet to take the formal steps necessary to withdraw their pledges,Horton said.
“Now they might walk into the office later today and bring their letter, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Horton said early Monday afternoon, referencing the formal letter the foundation asks from donors who would like to rescind their pledges.
Petrino’s firing as head football coach by Athletic Director Jeff Long on April 10 ended a 10-day saga that began when the fourth-year coach wrecked his motorcycle on a rural stretch of Arkansas 16 in Madison County and lied about having 25-year-old Jessica Dorrell, a new hire in the football department, as a passenger. Petrino also failed to disclose what he called a previous inappropriate relationship with Dorrell until four days after the accident, minutes before an Arkansas State Police report on the wreck was to be made public.
Long, also citing a $20,000 payment Petrino made to Dorrell, fired a coach who went 34-17 in four seasons and built the Razorbacks into a national contender.
The foundation finished its annual fund drive two weeks ago, and the results for a program considered on the rise were encouraging, Horton said.
“Our membership was in the range of 12,800 last year and right now it’s around 13,300, so we’re close to 500 members up from last year,” he said.
Horton said three or four Razorback Foundation members have called in to pledge more than they had previously since Petrino’s firing.
“There was a lot more people who agreed with the decision than there were who disagreed,” Horton said.
Sean Rochelle, an associate director for the foundation, said he was apprehensive about the first Razorback Club meeting after Petrino’s firing, which came two days later at the Petit Jean club based out of Morrilton on April 12.
Men’s basketball Coach Mike Anderson was the key speaker at that event.
“That was a grass-roots way to gauge where we are and we had a great crowd,” said Rochelle, who estimated there were 375 to 400 people at the Sacred Heart High School gym. “In a way it was very therapeutic to go see and hear from our fans.”
Rochelle is in the process of assigning coaches to the various Razorback Club functions on the schedule, including a meeting of the Northwest Arkansas club on April 25 at the Town Center in Fayetteville, which was to be addressed by Petrino. The speaker for that meeting had not been set as of the end of business hours Monday.
Rochelle said recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Tim Horton and defensive ends coach and special teams coordinator Steve Caldwell have been tabbed to speak at the Pine Bluff club April 23, as well as the April 26 meeting of the East Central club in Forrest City. The May 4 meeting of the Northeast Arkansas club in Paragould is set to feature acting head coach Taver Johnson and offensive line coach Chris Klenakis.
Rochelle pointed out that coordinators Paul Haynes and Paul Petrino will be out on the road recruiting during that time period, making it difficult for them to attend the club functions.
Long’s search for a head coach has not taken any definitive turns yet, though Razorbacks fans and some players have been active in showing support for various candidates.
John Daly (Dardanelle), the PGA golfer, said via his Twitter account he’s suggested former Tampa Bay Bucs and Oakland Raiders Coach Jon Gruden to Long.
“Been trying to help, all is in [Long’s] hands & I’ve passed all info to him-if that is the route they want to go I think Gruden would be the perfect fit!” wrote Daly in a tweet, though he also admitted it was a long shot.
Gruden, speaking at a clinic in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday, grinned when he said Daly had called him about the Arkansas job.
“But I haven’t heard from the school,” said Gruden, who works for ESPN and is on the Monday Night Football broadcast team. “I probably at some point will come back and coach if I get the right opportunity. Who knows? But I like what I’m doing right now. ESPN has given me a chance to stay close to the game.”
Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, who a source told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was not likely to be in the mix for the head coaching job, addressed the speculation that he could be a candidate Saturday.
“I am not too interested in speaking about my dealings with any other university,” McGee said after explaining how he’s beginning to set his head coaching protocol. “I really enjoy the job that I have. I trust the kids. I think they have bought into what I’m thinking about. My family loves the city and I’m not interested in talking about me or my employment with any other university.”
Sports, Pages 15 on 04/17/2012