by Max Brantley
Big football game in Fayetteville today against Ole Miss. They're all big of course. But the season's won-loss record has a long-term significance in building warmth among major donors for Athletic Director Jeff Long's ambitious building plans for the University of Arkansas sports kingdom.
The UA Board approved Long's plan to hire Populous, an architectural firm that has done other projects at UA, to study existing facilities and discuss future renovations or new facilities. The rumble now is that the planning is well advanced, so much so that it includes a plan for a grand new football facility and that plans could include virtual removal of the hallowed Broyles complex for replacement by a much larger facility on the north end of the stadium. Long has taken the plan to some major donors who could write singular checks for the expensive work and, the rumor goes, the response has not been enthusiastic in every case. Nothing like a superior team to help with that, of course.
I asked the athletic department about progress of this planning last week and got a very brief statement via a spokesman from Long.
“We are engaged in the process of developing a master plan with an architectural firm approved by the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. It is not yet complete. We have only viewed preliminary plans to this point and no plans have been finalized or submitted to the University. While it is unknown at this point when the master plan will be complete, we have begun meeting with donors in anticipation of the completion of the master planning process. ”
I asked under the FOI to review the preliminary plans. So far, no response has been forthcoming from the Athletic Department. Any effort to sequester communications and planning documents on this matter within the supposed secret confines of the Razorback Foundation or at the hired outside firm should fail as a legal matter because a paid public employee — Long — and likely many more are involved in the work. There's pretty clear case law involving the UA that it is required to obtain this material it authorized with public funds if it has shipped it off campus to keep it secret. I'm hopeful the lack of response is just an indication of the department's diligent effort to gather the various e-mails, memos, architects reports, drawings and such that have been the basis for talks with contributors. We'd want the College of Football to be as transparent as the Game and Fish Commission, wouldn't we?