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.

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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.

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“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?

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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.

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