Arkansas is in the midst of an odd coaching search that now has Phil Fulmer, the former Tennessee Volunteer head coach, now swirling in the rumor mill. After firing Petrino, the Razorbacks fell on hard times from a football standpoint, the same cannot be said from the financial side of things. The Donald W. Reynolds foundation just pledged a $1.25 million gift to the Razorbacks. This will be supplemented by a $250,000 contribution from Fred W. Smith, the man who operates as the foundations chairperson.
The planned Arkansas' Student Athlete Success Center will be the major benefactor of the moneys, but the current student athlete development program will also be renamed the Jeff Long Student-Athlete Development Program.
Quite a bit of lofty praise for both Long and the Razorbacks, who did what they were supposed to do. This gift comes on the heels of the Reynolds Foundation's 2010 contribution of $10 million towards Arkansas' new football operation facility. The foundation cited the "courageous leadership" of Long in the handling of the Petrino firing and noted that:
"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."
Interestingly enough, a quick run though of the foundation's 2009 and 2008 financial reports doesn't show other money given to athletics or football programs. The 2010 contribution to Arkansas has been the only foray into the collegiate sports space in recent years. However, the foundation has been active in Arkansas, donating to the school of medical sciences at U of A as well as food banks, children's shelters, 4-H programs and a host of other organizations in the state.
An odd turn of events and way to spend $1.5 million, but considering the group has already pledged some $10 million to the projects at the University, this is more of an investment in Jeff Long. Long has helped secure the fundraising side of the Hogs' big projects and this donation helps keep the money flowing in; a vote of confidence in the man who was forced to fire Bobby Petrino. The Reynolds foundation is already in the tank for $10 million, another $1.5 million is more of a push to keep the train rolling from the facilities and infrastructure standpoint than a true reward.
After all, Long needs the support over the next year as the future of the Hogs on the field is uncertain, just as much as he needs the money.