ROGERS — With so much focus on rankings, the University of Arkansas Athletic Department highlighted some other important numbers for its student athletes — grade point averages and hours of community service.
Pole-vaulters Tara Diebold and Tina Sutej, cross country’s Lane Boyer, baseball pitcher D.J. Baxendale, gymnast Jaime Pisani and football standouts Jarius Wright and Joe Adams were honored Jan. 28 at the 15th annual Razorback Red Tie Dinner, held at the Embassy Suites of Northwest Arkansas in Rogers.
Diebold and Boyer were acknowledged as Razorback Scholar-Athletes; Pisani and Baxendale received Spirit of the Razorback Awards; and Sutej, Adams and Wright were named Razorback Athletes of the Year. Neither Adams or Wright was able to attend. Adams was playing in the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and was named “Outstanding Player” for the South squad for his performance earlier in the day.
Back at the party, UA Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Jeff Long said the grade-point average for university’s 460 or more student athletes was above 3.0 for the third consecutive year. The athletes also performed more than 3,000 hours of community service last year, he said. A video presentation highlighted the athletes’ best moments both on and off the field, court, or in Pisani’s case, the gym floor.
The Red Tie event, began under the leadership of executive associate athletic director Bev Lewis, was once the signature fundraising event for women’s athletics, but has grown to include the whole department in recent years. Businesses and individuals from all over the state donate unique Razorback-themed items and packages for the auctions and help sponsor the event.
It takes the work of Razorback Foundation staff Jessica Dorrell, Sean Rochelle and a committee including Marilyn Bogle, Jane Gearhart, Mitchell Spearman, Lewis, Mary Lib White, Dick Trammel, Jamie Pulliza and Toni Bahn to make it happen each year. John George, who has served as public address announcer for more than 500 Razorback football and basketball games, was emcee for the event. Trammel also helped with the live auction.
The highest-grossing items were two dinners for eight hosted by Long and his wife, Fanny, and Razorbacks basketball coach Mike Anderson and his wife, Marcheita. One dinner sold for $13,000, and when the losing bidder was offered the same deal at the same price, he took it.
“You get to ask me all the questions that you ask me on Twitter and email me about. You’ll get to ask all that,” Long promised.
Other live auction offerings included a backyard party for 50 with food and entertainment, a Philadelphia Phillies jersey signed by former Razorback, Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series participant Cliff Lee; and a poolside party for eight co-hosted by stalwart Razorback fans Becky and Bob Alexander and Becky’s brother and his wife, David and Tina Bogle.
Yet more items included a painting by Arkansas native Pat Matthews that included a hog on a large piece of metal cut in the shape of Arkansas and a one-of-kind Razorback smoker.
“The economy is about to get better, I think,” said Long, “because we’re raking in a lot of money here tonight.”