The Adults In The Room


David Pryor was right. So was Cliff Gibson.

Back in 2016, Pryor, a former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator, and Gibson, a Monticello lawyer, were both trustees of the University of Arkansas System. They were the only trustees to vote against a $160 million expansion of the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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UA officials were confident that Athletic Department revenue would be sufficient to satisfy debt from a $120 million bond project. “We’re probably in the strongest financial position in the history of Razorback athletics,” then-Athletic Director Jeff Long said. But Pryor had doubts.

“It is a project that, in my opinion, we cannot justify with all of the priorities that we have throughout our education system,” Pryor told his fellow trustees. Pryor pegged the total cost of the project at more than $220 million, once interest and other bond issue expenses were totaled.

Four years later, on Tuesday, the UA Board of Trustees voted to borrow up to $19.1 million to make payments on that debt.

A lot has happened in four years. “Since then, the university has fired two head football coaches, Bret Bielema and Chad Morris, and the athletic director who championed the expansion, Jeff Long,” our story noted. “COVID-19 added another wrinkle to what was going to be a challenging year for the athletics program and its football team, now led by Sam Pittman.”

Mature, competent people plan for the unexpected. The 2017 federal tax cut, for example, was projected to add trillions of dollars to the national debt. Mature, competent people would have resisted adding to the debt during a time of economic growth so the federal government would have more room to maneuver during a recession. Like now.

We need more adults like David Pryor and Cliff Gibson at every level of government.