Like it is:

Transparency lacking in UA sports spending

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Joe Steinmetz (left), chancellor of the University of Arkansas, speaks Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, alongside Hunter Yurachek after Yurachek was introduced as the new director of athletics at the University of Arkansas during a news conference in the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Joe Steinmetz (left), chancellor of the University of Arkansas, speaks Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, alongside Hunter Yurachek after Yurachek was introduced as the new director of athletics at the University of Arkansas during a news conference in the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center in Fayetteville.

A close and smart friend once said he doesn't care what the Razorback Foundation does with his $20,000 yearly donation.

He doesn't want to vote on anything and doesn't fill out any ballots the Foundation sends him.

He just wants his football and basketball season tickets and decent parking. A sidebar to that is lately he hasn't attended many football games, so one could surmise he hasn't been getting the entertainment bang for his buck.

Other friends have been ticked off about the flow of money going out the front door, feeling they will have to make it up.

With donations ranging from $50 -- which doesn't really get you in the door but you can see it from there -- to the Broyles-Matthews Platinum level of the $20,000-plus, it is going to take some time.

On the front page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday was a story about how the Foundation is refusing to give up documents that had to do with the firing of Jeff Long and Bret Bielema and the more than $16 million they will be paid.

Both were state employees, and their incomes were being supplemented by the Foundation. This isn't a witch hunt by this or any other newspaper or TV station that has requested the information under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

It is simply a desire to present the facts to the Razorbacks Nation and the great people of this state.

That $16 million is a big number, and the financial obligations are growing because new Coach Chad Morris and new Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek mostly will be paid by the Foundation, too.

Every penny in the Foundation is donated by people who want to support the Razorbacks. It is their money.

That said, the Foundation does have a board made up of good, honest people. Executive Director Scott Varady is as honest as the day is long, although he's about as fond of Freedom of Information Act requests as he is losing football seasons.

It just seems for the last few years the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the Razorback Foundation have fought harder against transparency than for the rights of their fans and alums to know the facts.

Maybe it started to change when David Gearhart was the chancellor and the Advancement Department spent $3.8 million over its budget. That's a lot of money, and in the aftermath of that discovery a lot of reporters from various news outlets filed Freedom of Information Act requests.

Then-vice chancellor John Diamond, the person most responsible for handling the Freedom of Information Act requests, fought for transparency and eventually was fired. Diamond was liked by some and disliked by others. The book he later wrote, Please Delete, could be summed up as written by a disgruntled former employee, but by all accounts he tried to follow the letter of the law on Freedom of Information Act requests.

Yes, the Freedom of Information Act is a state law and the UA received $219 million tax dollars in 2015.

It is the flagship university in the state. It has educated some of the greatest people in this state, but when a school is the richest and biggest that comes with more scrutiny and accountability.

When more than $16 million can be spent to fire one athletic director and one coach -- and the total goes up again when you consider assistant coaches had a year left on their contract -- there is a need for transparency.

There should be extra concern now because President Trump's new tax plan has taken aim at the 80 percent tax write-off for athletic donations. Now is a time to save money and be accountable to those who are being counted on to donate more.

Sports on 12/13/2017

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