It’s inscribed somewhere on most any college seal in some form, including the University of Arkansas’, but truth seems to be something in short supply lately from the public faces of an institution they are privileged to represent.
No matter who the brain trust led by Chancellor John A. White has or hasn’t hired as football coach by the time this is printed, the credibility of the state’s flagship university has been harmed.
Not because two coaches have pulled a one-and-done on Arkansas this year. That almost takes some kind of skill to pull off.
No, The problem is that when White opens his mouth, many people aren’t sure what to believe anymore.
His performance at the press conference announcing the “fi/re-signing” of Houston Nutt was only the latest extension of his track record of something we now politely call spin.
As bad as White is at manipulating public opinion, the media relations departments at the UA are even more inept. Their disingenuous blame-game aimed at the fans with no accountability for those truly responsible was the hot air blowing this brush fire out of control.
“Public Relations For Dummies” is currently $13.59 on Amazon.com and might make a nice stocking stuffer for the employees who failed to mange the UA’s image this year.
The University of Arkansas is a public trust populated by the best and brightest students the state and world have to offer and incredible professors who are leading innovations that are actually changing the world. Thousands of people of good faith have donated more than a billion dollars to make it the best it can be.
None of them have made the choices to learn at, teach for or benefit this institution only to have its leaders squander the school’s reputation by botching up the one thing that is simultaneously the most prominent and the most irrelevant thing on campus.
The UA, and its public persona in the form of the athletic department, should not be cynically operated like a corrupt big business or heaven forbid, the federal government. Every alumnus or alumna, every taxpayer in the state deserves and should demand integrity from the chancellor.
They should demand the UA care as much about protecting students as it does about protecting its trademarks.
White’s forays into the athletic arena have shown just how willing he is to bend the truth and take actions to evade the laws designed to protect the public interest.
His own words regarding Nutt’s relationship with the person who sent “the” e-mail show that either he asked nary one pointed question in his so-called investigation, or that Nutt didn’t tell the truth.
For conduct that would and should get someone fired, Nutt was rewarded by “White the Merciful” bestowing a $3.2 million going-away present from the Razorback Foundation that controls the donations of fans who spend nearly $20 million a year on football tickets.
It’s a stark contrast against White’s disrespectful treatment of Richardson, who was fired only for speaking what has now been proven to be the truth when it comes to being treated differently than Nutt by this administration.
White gloried in his ability to leave no paper trail during the search for Frank Broyles’ replacement he claimed to conduct on his own, only to later admit that was a smokescreen and he had input from members of the Board of Trustees.
The Nutt circus has moved on to Ole Miss, but it will still be an annual sideshow in the Natural State. Broyles has been put out to pasture, and hopefully his successor Jeff Long will have the good sense to restore order to the complex that bears his name.
But White remains and still seems behind the learning curve when it comes to his attempts to suppress the truth in the Information Age.
When it comes to believability, White’s up there with the Iraqi Minister of Information who famously proclaimed all was well while American forces rolled past him.
Remember those tanks Nolan talked about?
They’re right behind you, Chancellor, and we can all see them.