FAYETTEVILLE - This week, the State of Arkansas has lost both a Hall of Fame sportswriter and a surefire Hall of Fame philanthropist if Arkansas had a Philanthropists Hall of Fame.
Both David McCollum, 68, elected to the Arkansas Sportswriters/Sportscasters Hall of Fame during a 50-year career, with the nearly 36 years in Conway as the sports editor of the Log Cabin Democrat, and Fred Smith, 84, the Fort Smith native and Donrey Media executive and chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation so iconic to the University of Arkansas and to the UA’s Razorbacks that Smith’s name adorns the Fred Smith Football Center, and Reynolds prefaces Reynolds Razorback Stadium, died it was learned Monday.
That the football operations building bears Smith’s name was done at UA insistence not Smith’s, Arkansas Associate Athletic Director Kevin Trainor said.
"Fred was a very humble man," Trainor said through a UA press release. "He preferred to work behind the scenes to make an impact. But it's hard to stay in the background when the impact is so large for our state. With so many gifts to various organizations, the Smith family's support really helped us move forward in a way we wouldn't have been to do without them."
Smith through the Reynolds Foundation and from his own pocket was instrumental in providing major donations through charities in Arkansas and to the University of Arkansas.
Among the UA projects that Smith helped fund are the Steven L. Anderson Design Center within the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design; the Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development in the Sam M. Walton College of Business; the practice facilities for the Razorbacks' men's and women's golf teams; and the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center.
McCollum’s loss is a personal one for this writer who has known David from his 1977 arrival to Arkansas as sports editor of the Arkansas Democrat.
Whether working competing against the newspaper that David worked when I wrote for the Arkansas Gazette and he wrote and edited for the Arkansas Democrat, or working for his paper as I have and still do with the Log Cabin Democrat subscribing to my sports service covering the Razorbacks, it was always a pleasure respecting a talented colleague perpetually respecting the subject that he wrote about rather than himself as the most important to his readers.
We’ve lost a great writer and even better person.
BIRTH OF A TRACK MEET
Though birthed on outdoor track’s iconic weekend of the Penn Relays in Philadelphia and the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, the 16-team National Relays that Arkansas Men’s Coach Chris Bucknam and Arkansas Women’s Coach Lance Harter co-hosted last Friday and Saturday at John McDonnell Field appear already carving a permanent niche.
Because of track’s worldwide umbrella, the National Relays Bucknam asserts, isn’t out to compete with Penn and Drake, both essential in the past to building Arkansas’ incredible success in men’s and women’s track, but as an all-collegiate alternative with Penn and Drake now so emphasizing pro track athletes in addition to the high schools they’ve always emphasized.
The national relays allowed a big Friday afternoon program and a smaller Saturday afternoon events for individuals from 16 major colleges to improve or establish NCAA Outdoor West Preliminary qualifying marks and prep for the ensuing conference championship meets, a Friday night program featuring the men’s and women’s 4 x 1,500 relays and then a two-hour Saturday night nationally televised window on the SEC Network of relays that include multiple top 10 tens in all relays run with Arkansas’ 4 x 100 men running a nationally leading 38.59
It was a big weekend for the Razorbacks men’s and women’s teams, but as Bucknam and Harter assert, it was a big weekend for all the teams posting so many of their season’s bests on John McDonnell Field’s fast track.
“Everyone I spoke to, and that was pretty much every coach, they seemed to enjoy it,” Harter said. “The weather couldn’t have been better and the track is always really fast. So overall everyone was really happy and the athletes seemed to have a good time.”
All expressed interest in returning, Bucknam and Harter said.
Bucknam said the cooperation of Football Coach Chad Morris freeing the Walker Pavilion as a track warmup area was a major plus.
“The warmup facilities is one reason why the times were so good,” Bucknam said. “They are under cover at the Walker Pavilion and the athletes felt relaxed and ready. That was a game changer. I’m appreciative of Coach Morris for helping us putting on the meet.”
The meet drew a nice for a non-SEC Outdoor Championship crowd of 2,1500 which obviously would have been larger if not competing with the 10,000 and 3,000 attending the Arkansas vs. Alabama baseball and 3,000 attending the Arkansas vs. Ole Miss women’s softball game as both Arkansas teams recorded weekend SEC sweeps.
The same weekend next year might find both the Arkansas baseball and softball teams on the SEC road but Bucknam actually welcomes all the events feeding off each other if there’s enough time to time them right.
“What a great weekend with baseball, softball and track!” Bucknam said. “It’s all about timing. So that the baseball game gets out and bring your ticket stub and you get in the 2-hour track window for free and come watch the Razorbacks. That comes down to the SEC Network and getting ahead of it for scheduling. We have a year out now to negotiate and see what works best for the time so we don’t overlap. The beauty of this is we are just looking at the two hours.”
For Arkansas, and more importantly for all college track, the SEC Network live two hours is national exposure worth all scheduling conflicts.