The Razorback Foundation, the secretive nonprofit that raises money for University of Arkansas athletics and reaps the benefit of premium seat sales in part to use to augment coaching pay, announced this week that it is opening a Little Rock fund-raising office in the Simmons Bank tower with two-fulltime employees. News release from Executive Director Scott Varady, based in Fayetteville:
Mica Strother and Susannah “Susie” Shinn have been hired as directors of development and will be based primarily in the new Razorback Foundation office in Little Rock. Strother was Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Baldwin & Shell Construction. Shinn most recently served as the Director of Annual Giving at Episcopal Collegiate School in Little Rock.
“We have Razorback Foundation members from all corners of the state and throughout the region that provide vital support for the development of Razorback student-athletes academically and athletically,” Varady said. “We are grateful for that widespread support and continue to look for better ways to serve our membership and to welcome new members. We want every Arkansan to be a part of the Razorback Foundation and connected to the Razorbacks. With the addition of Mica and Susie and the opening of our Central Arkansas office, we will be able to more efficiently serve our members in all areas of the state.
“Mica and Susie are outstanding additions to our Razorback Foundation team. They are both well respected within in their field and have developed professional relationships throughout the state. Mica and Susie understand our state and how it rallies around the Razorbacks. We are pleased to have them join the Razorback Family.”
Noteworthy: Strother, a graduate of OBU and UALR Law, was finance director for Mike Beebe’s campaigns for governor and served as his director of appointments — an important insider with knowledge of friends when it came time to fill state patronage positions (the Republican Party sued for information about her activities, but the suit never went anywhere.)
Strother, who’d been a VP for Baldwin and Shell, was quoted:
“‘Calling the Hogs’ for a living is a dream come true,” Strother said. “It’s an honor and privilege to get to be a part of the time-honored Razorback tradition and help further connect Razorback fans with the program they love.”
I made a crack about this new office last night on Twitter to this effect: The Razorbacks don’t want to play football in Little Rock, but they are happy to raise money here.
Abuse rained down on me from tweeting Root Hogs from all over. Shut up, they said. When the Hog hierarchy speaks in Arkansas, it is presumed to be divinely inspired.
Truth is, I’ve long been on board with the idea that college football home games ought to be played on campus. I know the games have been a boon to Little Rock and several have worked mightily to upgrade War Memorial and make it suitable for continued Hog use. But Fayetteville has more seats and the power in Arkansas has tilted mightily — financially and politically — to Northwest Arkansas. I think they OUGHT to play in Fayetteville, soon to have a $160 million stadium addition.
But what with the Internet, telephones and ready access to an expensive private plane — not to mention an under three-hour drive between Little Rock and Fayetteville — I’m not wholly sure I understand why an investment in Little Rock makes sense after all these years. It will easily cost $300,000 or more between salary, office and expenses. It does put them closer to the Delta farmers once viewed as a backbone of Hog athletics and a chief reason for Little Rock games. But still…..
I am sure of this: The “optics” of a Little Rock beachhead — to employ the vogue word for appearances — aren’t well-timed. Hog games have dwindled to one in Little Rock in 2016 — it will be against that household name and grid powerhouse Alcorn State. Better to fly a potential donor up to Fayetteville and a skybox view of a real football game to loosen wallets, I’d think.
The most recent Razorback Foundation tax report on-line, showing assets of about $45 million, was filed in February 2015.