Scott Varady, 56, was named executive director of the Razorback Foundation, the fundraising arm of the University of Arkansas’ Athletic Department, in December 2015. For Varady, a diehard Razorback fan, it was a dream appointment after having been the university’s associate general counsel since 1996. He also has worked in private practice and for the late U.S. Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-Ark.
Varady earned bachelor’s from the UA before graduating from Georgetown Law School in 1993 with a master’s and law degree. He plays drums in the band Mary-Heather Hickman & the Sinners, which has opened for acts such as the Oak Ridge Boys, the Eli Young Band and Justin Moore.
Much of Razorback Foundation fundraising is tied to tickets. With restricted seating and convoluted schedules, how has the pandemic affected things?
Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has presented unprecedented challenges for all aspects of college athletics. Among other benefits, membership in the Razorback Foundation entitles members to seating locations based on their membership level and total priority points. We have worked collaboratively with Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek and the Razorback Ticket Center to honor this system to ensure that all Razorback Foundation members who purchased football or basketball season tickets had the opportunity to attend some Razorback games in a safe and socially distanced seating model.
We also created the ONE Razorback Fund to provide a way for Razorback fans who opted out of attending games to help support Razorback athletics by making a tax-deductible donation of their ticket refund.
Did the football team’s struggles depress fundraising, and has Sam Pittman sparked renewed interest in his first year as coach?
A love for Razorback athletics is part of the DNA of almost every Arkansan and everyone who attended the University of Arkansas, and the Razorbacks unify our great state as one big family in a special way like nothing else. The past few football seasons have been challenging, but Razorback Foundation members and fans now exude confidence, optimism and hope for the future of Razorback football. Empirical studies show that the success of a football program has a positive impact on private gift support for athletics and academics, and we are confident that the success of Coach Pittman and the football team will aid all aspects of our fundraising.
Speaking of buyouts, do you expect a resolution with Bret Bielema or will the dispute go to trial?
We can share that the case is currently set for trial in June 2021. Beyond that and given that the matter is in active litigation, we have no further comment.
How does the foundation try to balance the needs of big-money donors with the thousands of everyday fans?
We want the Razorback Foundation to be a grassroots organization made up of fans from all 75 counties in Arkansas. Everyone matters, and it takes all of us to be part of something bigger than we can be individually. Every gift — regardless of the amount — helps support and transform the lives of student-athletes. At the end of the day, every gift matters and helps provide a world-class education and the ability to compete for SEC and national championships. Collectively, tremendous power exists in large numbers of people joining together to support Razorback athletics.
What is your favorite Razorback sports memory?
In 1994, I was a new attorney in a large law firm in Washington, D.C., without much vacation time. I told my boss I understood if she had to fire me, but I had to go to Charlotte to see the Razorbacks play in the Final Four. Cheering for the Razorbacks as we beat Arizona and Duke to win the national championship was one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. And fortunately, I didn’t get fired.