John Tyson, chairman of the Board of Tyson Foods, sent me a prepared statement this morning relative to speculation about his role in the ongoing discussion of financial problems at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and criticism of Chancellor David Gearhart’s handling of the matter.
A number of Gearhart defenders believe Tyson and allies have been working against Gearhart. Under one widely circulated theory, Tyson, a former UA Board member, is said to be upset over the failure of UA to hire his old friend Butch Davis as Razorback football coach. He wrote:
Because of all the speculation in your Blog and elsewhere about why I resigned from the U of A Board of Trustees, and the suggestion by some individuals that I did so because the U of A did not hire Butch Davis as the Razorback football coach, I decided that I needed to comment on the matter. The failure of the University of Arkansas to hire my lifelong friend Butch Davis when Coach Bielema was hired had NOTHING to do with my resignation from the Board of Trustees. While I have thought for years that Butch would be a great coach for the Razorbacks, were I going to resign because he wasn’t hired, I would have done so after the hiring of Bobby Petrino and/or John L. Smith. Like all Razorback fans, I wish Jeff Long and Coach Bielema the very best in returning Arkansas football to its glory days.
As I said in my letter of resignation on February 5, 2013 (attached), I resigned because of constraints on my time, and the fact that I’d become “frustrated at the Board’s inability to make meaningful change in the structure and delivery of higher education in Arkansas.” At some point I may comment further on these issues, but I have remained silent so my former colleagues on the Board of Trustees can handle the difficult issues they face as they work for the best interests of the System and the state of Arkansas. Perhaps the unnamed people promoting this idea are trying to distract attention from the tough issues facing the Board of Trustees at this time.
Tough issues include, of course, this week’s UA Board of Trustees meeting. The audit of UA finances and questions about Gearhart’s handling of press inquiries will come up, perhaps at both an audit committee meeting Thursday and again Friday before the full board. It’s not yet known if the board will discuss these issues in public or in a private personnel session.