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Arkansas’ Long Didn’t Want The Texas Job, But He Will Take More Money

jeff-longKudos to Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long for turning one school’s reported interest in him into a tangible bump in salary.  The Dallas Morning News reported last weekend that the Razorback AD was on the three-man short list of AD candidates at Texas.  Long put out a press release stating: “I do not comment on the searches of other universities or on unsubstantiated rumors… Further, I am not seeking a position or engaged in the search process of another university.”

Here’s why: Arkansas boosted Long’s salary to $1.1 million per year, gave him a $100,000 bonus for sticking around, and upped his buyout to $1.3 million through June of 2015.

The Associated Press got hold of Long’s amended contract — freshly cut last Friday — via an open records request.  They found that UA officials conceded in the pact that they were aware that “another institution of higher education with significant resources” had come a’calling.  Also, the new monetary benefits to Long were “in exchange for your agreement to remover yourself from consideration for another position and to retain you at the University of Arkansas.”

It was a smart move by the Razorbacks.  Long has become one of the most respected ADs in the nation by always landing the coaches he desires (Mike Anderson in hoops, Bobby Petrino and Bret Bielema in football), by proving to be an excellent fundraiser, and by taking the high ground in the Petrino situation (which was not an easy move to make).

As for those Arkansas fans who won’t like Long angling for a raise, put yourself in his shoes.  If the biggest company in your field wanted to talk to you, wouldn’t you consider moving?  And if your current employer was willing to up your pay in order to keep you, wouldn’t you happily take the cash?

This was a win-win for all involved.  Long’s staying in Fayetteville and he’s making more money.  Arkansas maintains stability at the top of its athletic department by holding on to a proven leader.

Good times.

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Arkansas AD Long To Head Up Playoff Selection Committee

jeff-longThe leaders of the new College Football Playoff will announce the first selection panel tomorrow.  But the SEC has already made one announcement today.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will serve as the first chairman of said selection committee when it convenes next fall.  According to Bill Hancock — the executive director of the College Football Playoff — Long has: “vast experience in college football.  People in intercollegiate athletics hold him in high regard.  He is know for his insight, intelligence, wisdom, wit, judgement and calm demeanor.  He’ll make a great chairman.”

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Report: Arkansas A.D. Jeff Long Expected On Football Playoff Committee

Jeff LongWhen the College Football Playoff starts in 2014, the selection committee will have 12-18 members.  One of them is expected to be Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.

The Associated Press says Long along with fellow athletic directors Pat Haden of USC and Dan Radakovich of Clemson are expected to be named to the panel that’s also expected to include former players, coaches and administrators.  The AP says Long did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

CBS.com has reported that West Virginia AD Oliver Luck and Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez are expected to a part of the committee.

The panel is expected to be completed by the end of the season.

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Arkansas Makes It Official – John L. Smith Out As Razorbacks Coach

In a move that surprises almost no one, Arkansas made it official today – John L. Smith is out as coach of the Razorbacks.  For the second time in less than a year, Arkansas will be searching for a new head coach.

The Razorbacks finished the season 4-8 under Smith, hired in April to replace Bobby Petrino.

Here are the official statements from A.D. Jeff Long and Smith.

The University says Smith will remain in the department as a consultant through the completion of his 10-month contract. He will assist with the transition to the new coaching staff once a new head coach is named. All assistant coaches have the option to remain a part of the football staff pending the hiring of a new head coach.

CBSSports.com is reporting that Arkansas is expecting to have its new coach in place within the next 10 days.

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Hogs’ A.D. Talks Football With Booster Club, Eyes A Coaching Decision By Mid-December

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long met with a number of rabid Razorback fans at the Little Rock Touchdown Club yesterday.  Naturally, the state of his coaching search was a hot topic.

Asked what “phase” his coaching search is in, Long said: “Just research at this point.”  Just a few weeks ago he told another booster group that he’s had no contact with coaches or their representatives.  Here’s hoping he’s lying his rear end off, ’cause if he’s spent the time from April til October simply looking at resumes, he’s wasted a lot of valuable time.  (For that reason, we suspect he is lying his rear end off and has talked to representatives for coaches and perhaps a few out of work ones like Butch Davis and Jon Gruden one-on-one.)

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Hogs’ A.D. Long Stands By Smith (Through The End Of The Season)

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long told a booster club yesterday that the idea of John L. Smith being ousted as interim coach — in order to appoint an interim to the interim — is an idea that’s not going to come to fruition.  Asked if he’s committed to Smith, Long said:

 

“Yeah, and again I tried to make that clear today.  Sometimes I don’t in my speeches.  But we’re committed to this season.  He’s going to lead our team through the season.  That’s something we made a commitment to back in April and we’re going to stand behind that commitment…

He’s our head coach and will continue to lead our program through the season.”

 

The AD was also asked about Smith’s role with the team:

 

“He’s the head coach and he’s a different kind of head coach.  There are types of head coaches, and he certainly is a manager of the program and is in there less X’s- and O’s-wise with either side.  He’s more involved with the special teams that he has been that he coached at Arkansas.  No, he hasn’t been any more or less involved.  He’s managing our program and being the leader of the program…

Well, as we said at the time, I think he worked with eight of the nine assistants (on the current staff).  He’d been on our staff for three years.  He knew the players.  I saw that as his strength coming in.  And that he had been a leader and been a head coach at a BCS-level school.  So those were the things if I’m answering your question.”

 

If Razorback fans are honest with themselves, many will remember that that was exactly what they wanted in an interim coach back in April.  “Just don’t mess anything up and let the coordinators do their thing.”  Unfortunately, for the Hogs, Petrino did a lot more than that.  He’s clearly missed.  Long admitted as much when he said, “When your leader is different, your team would be different.”

Long was also asked if — in hindsight — Smith is “an SEC level head coach:

 

“He’s been in the Big Ten, so yes.  I think for this situation he was ready for this situation.”

 

Finally, someone asked the rather classless question: “Has John L. Smith been an embarrassment to the program?”  Long’s response:

 

“Yeah, I don’t want to answer that question.”

 

A better answer might have been “no,” because in just blowing off the query, Long allows people to say, “Yes, Smith has been an embarrassment.”  And that’s unfair to a coach who walked into a no-win scenario.  When Petrino went belly-up, the Hogs’ chances of winning any kind of championship went with him.  Only the expectation of championships remained.

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Why Bobby Petrino’s Departure Is Ultimately Good News For Arkansas

By Evin Demirel

With 2:50 left in the first quarter, Arkansas trailed Alabama 7-0 on Saturday. On third down, freshman quarterback Brandon Allen threw a pass to Brandon Mitchell near mid field, but the ball bounced off Mitchell’s hands and appeared to be picked off by Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, who ran it back to the Arkansas three yard line.

It wasn’t clear if Milliner had actually intercepted the pass. CBS replays showed the deflected ball wobbling and falling down, down close to the turf, before going up again, scooped up into Milliner’s arms.

The question: Did it hit ground first? At any point, did it bounce back?

Yes, it turned out.

The Razorbacks, though, could be falling for a while.

There were too many loose ends in Arkansas’ 52-0 loss in Fayetteville. Not even a healthy quarterback, cornerback and fullbacks would have tied them.

The game still had not slipped out of grasp in the early second quarter when, down 10-0, from Alabama 42 yard line Allen misread the Alabama defense and forced a deep pass over the middle to tight end Chris Gragg. Safety Vinnie Sunseri – with such a name, I’d expect him to play for Rutgers, the New Jersey school Arkansas plays next – intercepted the ball and returned it 13 yards. Allen, making his first start, could have made the far more simple throw to an open Knile Davis, who would have run it to near the first down marker.

It’s likely Tyler Wilson, Arkansas’ injured star quarterback, would have made the safe throw.

On a pass attempt on the next Arkansas drive, Allen stayed in the pocket a couple beats longer than he should have. He was sacked for an eight-yard loss, pushing the Hogs back to their own 20-yard line and killing the drive.

It’s likely Wilson would have gotten rid of the ball quicker.

This isn’t a jeremiad on Arkansas’ unseasoned quarterbacks, who have done about as well as can be expected, all things considered. They had nothing to do with the spotty special teams play. They weren’t going to stop a 6-4, 320-pound Australian defensive lineman named Jesse Williams from putting the entire Hogs’ offensive line on the barbie. They weren’t the ones unable to get around the three preseason All-Americans on Alabama’s offensive line, or wrap up bruising tailback Eddie Lacy behind the lines.

Wilson would not have helped in these departments.

If Arkansas’ entire roster is healthy, it’s good enough to beat the Rutgers, Ole Misses and Auburns of the world – even if the coaching is much worse than it was last season, before Bobby Petrino’s attempted career immolation. Even with Petrino as coach, though, the gap between Arkansas and national front-runners Alabama and LSU was obvious.

What makes those programs consistently superb are 1) big, fast, strong four and five star recruits and 2) a winning system most of them buy into.

Petrino certainly had a system in place, which was good enough for frequent upper-tier bowl appearances, but he couldn’t sign the nation’s best recruits like more established programs. To win, he had to coach his players up, and try to use a high powered offensive system as an equalizer against more talented teams. It worked, except against the teams who always end up where he wants to be – in the national title game.

Petrino didn’t put much stock in building relationships with his players off the field. He tended to motivate them through fear, not outward signs of love. In order to attract the very best recruits, a coach must be able to do both. It helps if he genuinely enjoys young people, which is especially important since many top-notch modern players chafe at the gruff, tough-love coaching style of past generations.

Even if the Hogs had kept winning 10 to 12 games a season, Petrino’s attitude would have kept Arkansas from recruiting at the same level of more established elite programs. That, in turn, would have kept them from ever entering the ranks of Nick Saban’s Alabama or Les Miles’ LSU.

The best players in the most talent-rich football areas of the country (especially California, the deep South and Florida) typically grow up as fans of the programs in their area. If that program is winning and has a great coach, it’s near impossible to convince them to come to a remote place like Arkansas. But if mama hears good things about how the coach has nurtured a family atmosphere, she is more willing to consider letting her son live so far away and not being able to see him as much.

If there is any silver lining in this unraveling mess of a season, it’s that athletic director Jeff Long has a unique opportunity to use all the financial support Petrino’s success inspired in the program as a base from which he can hire a coach who’s a better fit than Petrino in terms of getting Arkansas close to the level of Alabama and LSU.

Long has already invested in building one of the nation’s topathleticcomplexes.  He’s also willing to pay college football’s highest salary, according to a source of Otis Kirk of Hawgs247 [pay wall warning]. Yes, Long hired interim dud John L. Smith. But he’s also laid the table for a far more powerful program than Smith’s predecessor left behind.

Arkansas could win three, five, even seven more games. It won’t matter in the long run if Long doesn’t make what turns out to be a home run hire.“Arkansas fans, you should simply hope that in 2.5 months or so, Jeff Long hires a big-time coach. That, not this wrecked season, matters now,” wrote MattZemek of CollegeFootballNews.com.

Who’s Next

 Who should it be? Who should Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long decide is the best match for downcast but still fiercely loyal Arkansas fans, for the world-class facilities they have funded and the enduring expectations of a greatness which keeps slipping away?

Arkansas hasn’t won a national title since 1964, and the previous head coach put a mistress before the goal of leading the program to another. There are plentycandidates, some of whom could find potential openings at Tennessee and Auburn more attractive. Let’s get this out of the way: the next coach shouldn’t be Bobby Petrino again. It should be someone who brings these attributes to the table:

1)  Genuinely inspires players – Before the Alabama game, I asked Knile Davis and Cobi Hamilton if they planned to step up in Wilson’ absence. Both said they would – “I have to will this team to victory,” Davis said. “Of course,” Hamilton said. Not just with “playmaking ability but also just being a leader, vocally. Because Tyler was really the guy as far as vocally rallying the troops together and taking charge in the huddle.”

Wilson, of course, called his teammates out after the Alabama game for not playing as hard in the second half. But it’s not the job of Arkansas’ best players to also be its best leaders. The next coach should realize this, and embrace it. Naturally, someone who really cares about his players will also most inspire them. As much as some people are clamoring for a hire of West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen, his reputation fordrunkencavorting should remove him from Long’s final list.

2) Has developed an extensive recruiting network in the South, especially Texas. The north and east parts of Texas have long been a source of future Hogs. This extremely talent-rich area becomes even more critical because, quite frankly, most all the best young players in other close recruiting hotspots – Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama – grow up as LSU, Alabama or Auburn fans.

To many north Texans, Arkansas is attractive because it’s a closer SEC school. Granted, Texas A&M is now in the mix, but with the right hire Arkansas should still have a better program than the Aggies in the short term. A five-star Texan is much more likely to eschew a good Texas A&M team and join Arkansas than a five-star player from the Deep South would snub an elite Alabama or LSU program.

3) Has substantial experience as a head coach in a major conference. Some Hog fans are enticed by the head coaching potential of Alabama’s defensive coordinator Kirby Smart or Garrick McGee, Arkansas’ former offensive coordinator, now head coach at UAB, Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn. But the  Razorbacks can’t afford to roll the dice on such unproven candidates, especially someone like Malzahn who – for all his ties to the state – is already one of its most polarizing sports figures.

The following are my top two choices for the Hogs’ next head coach. I’m assuming big names such as Jon Gruden, Pete Carroll and Gary Patterson won’t seriously consider any offers:

1) Art Briles

School: Baylor

Age: 56

Amazingly, he’s spent his entire 33-year coaching career in Texas, working from the high school ranks up. Arkansas has never had a head coach with anything near this level of Texas recruiting connections. His Baylor program has shown steady improvement the last four years, notching a 6-3 Big 12 record last season under Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Griffin’s star continues to rise at the NFL, which will help Briles lock up future elite recruits from around the nation.

2) Charlie Strong

School: Louisville

Age: 52

At this point, Strong looks to be the most likely and logical candidate.  A Batesville native and UCA alumnus, he knows Arkansas. He’s not as plugged into Texas circles, but his impressive bona fides as a defensive line coach at Notre Dame and defensive coordinator for two Florida national championship teams will impress the elite defensive recruits Arkansas has sorely lacked. Strong also appears to have Louisville, at 3-0, improving at a rapid pace.

Some wonder whether his race (African-American) will be a problem as he would be the first black head football coach in Razorback history. It’s possible that this matters to someboosters, but consider Fayetteville, Ark. has one of the lowest populations of African-Americans among all SEC school towns, which matters to some young African-American recruits considering different colleges. If their potential head coach firsthand understands the challenges of a young black male in a majority white culture, that matters.

 

An edited version of this article originally published in SYNC, which is affiliated with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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Report: Stanford Approaches Long; Plus Conspiracy Theories And A Rumor

Fayetteville television station KNWA-TV — Eazy-E and Ice Cube reporting — have posted a story claiming that Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has been approached by Stanford regarding their AD spot.  Bob Bowlsby is leaving that school to take over as the Big 12′s new commissioner.

According to KNWA anchor Matt Turner on the station’s website:

 

“Jeff Long is one of the candidates to replace Bob Bowlsby as the new athletic director at Stanford University. That’s according to three separate sources close to the situation, and one of the people providing the information is a school official at the University of Arkansas.

The primary source, who wants to remain anonymous, says Stanford officials have “reached out” to Long about filling the vacancy but added that Long has not yet responded to the inquiries.

The source also said that Long is not a finalist for the job despite rumors circulating on internet message boards.”

 

It would make sense for Stanford to reach out to Long.  He has shown that he can lure in just about any big fish he sets his mind to when it comes to coaches.  He’s overseen an increase in UA’s athletic budget and spearheaded the school’s drive to build bigger and better facilities.  He’s viewed as one of the top athletic directors in the SEC — which is saying something — and the nation.

While he ultimately wound up taking a figurative punch to the ribs for hiring Bobby Petrino, the ex-coach did improve the fortunes of the Razorback football program before he wrecked his motorcycle and his career.

Speaking of Petrino and messageboards and even anonymous email tips, yes, we’ve heard the conspiracy theories regarding Petrino, his one-time mistress Jessica Dorrell and her ex-fiance Josh Morgan.  All three are now ex-Razorback employees.  The chatterers in social media have suggested everything from the fiance driving the pair off the road to taking a baseball bat to the coach’s noggin.

“Why else would he look so bad while she escaped major injury?”  Uh, because Petrino was in front and Dorrell on the back of the motorcycle.  Because she had a helmet on and he didn’t.

Sorry, not buying that one.  One cop may have helped Petrino get to the hospital, but no officer of the law — knowing he could lose his job — would cover up an assault.

That said, there is a rumor floating around among media types in the Natural State and it’s something we wondered about at the time of the Petrino fiasco — What did Long know of the relationship and when did he know it?

Some in the Arkansas media believe Long and others inside the UA athletic department were aware of the Petrino-Dorrell relationship well before the two crashed the coach’s bike.  Anonymous sources have given them that information, but no one has gone on the record to confirm it.  If true, it would mean Long knowingly allowed Petrino to hire his mistress and that he helped speed up the process at the coach’s request.

We’ve been waiting since mid-April for Long to have to explain what he knew, when he knew it, and how something like Petrino’s hire of Dorrell was allowed to take place on his watch (whether he knew anything about their relationship or not).  And we don’t mean putting out a press release expressing shock.

Some members of the Arkansas media are now asking those questions and they’re hearing reports that he might have known more than he initially suggested, though for now those are only rumors.  Whether anyone inside the UA athletic department will roll over on the situation — if there’s anything to roll over about — remains to be seen.

But the odds are good that if/when Stanford officials meet with Long, they’ll have more than a question or two about how a mess like Petrino’s could occur on his watch.

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SEC Headlines – 4/25/12

1.  Here’s a quick overview on the current state of the BCS versus playoff debate.

2.  SEC newbies Missouri and Texas A&M are gearing up for Year One in their new home.

3.  Several ex-Alabama stars are hoping “the Saban Effect” will make their NFL draft waits shorter.

4.  Auburn has made progress on its new offensive identity.

5.  Jeff Long found Arkansas’ solution for 2012, but the search will go for the man to lead the Hogs in 2013 and beyond.  (Remember: Butch Davis.)

6.  LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis — with a new deal in the works – will be the SEC latest million-bucks-a-year assistant coach.

7.  New Rebel football coach Hugh Freeze and AD Ross Bjork are hitting the road to unite the Ole Miss fanbase.

8.  Freeze says UM’s quarterback battle goes on.  (“The race goes on, Judah.”  A little “Ben Hur” for you film buffs.)  And questions remain.

9.  Dan Mullen is happy with his team’s attitude at Mississippi State.

10.  Kevin Sumlin says Texas A&M’s quarterbacks are progressing faster than he expected.

11.  Want a summary of Florida’s recent football woes?  Chris Rainey might be the only Gator drafted into the NFL this year.  Wow.

12.  Will Muschamp is optimistic heading into summer.

13.  Georgia’s kickers are hoping to hear their names called at the NFL draft.

14.  Kentucky’s John Calipari threw out a first-pitch strike before a Cincinnati Reds game last night.  (For what it’s worth, the Mason-Dixon line in my view lies somewhere between Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio.  In Columbus, a “How ya doin?” will be met with a blank stare.  In Cincinnati, you’ll get a “Fine, how’re you?” back.  And for all the Ohio fans angry that Cincy honored UK’s hoops team last night, they do realize their airport is actually in Kentucky, don’t they?)

15.  New South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin says he “didn’t run away from Kansas State” because he was mad at that school’s AD and administration. ( That means he’s the first person to believe that.)

16.  Derek Dooley has released a post-spring depth chart at Tennessee.

17.  Vanderbilt’s James Franklin wanted turf not grass at Dudley Field… and what Franklin wants, he gets.  (Good for Vandy.  They really are making a commitment to their coach.)

18.  SEC coaches say Missouri’s offense will present league defenses with a new set of challenges.

19.  The coaches at Mizzou and A&M have walked onto difficult ground by entering the Southeastern Conference.

20.  Fans of both schools are getting more excited about joining their new league.

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Petrino’s Gift Paid For Dorrell’s Vehicle

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced Tuesday night that former coach Bobby Petrino had given a $20,000 gift to Jessica Dorrell.

Some “gift,” many thought. It turns out Dorrell used that $20,000 to purchase a black Acura.

That information was included in Long’s termination letter to Petrino, details of which were released on Friday. Long wrote to Petrino:

“Your conduct and actions in this matter have generated voluminous negative media stories and opinions, within Arkansas and nationally, that have harmed the reputation of the University of Arkansas and our athletic programs. We are now faced with the task of restoring the reputation of our institution and our athletics programs that many individuals and teams have worked hard to build over the years.”

Meanwhile, Arkansas must figure out how to handle Dorrell’s employment status while she remains on paid administrative leave. That’s all while Ms. Dorrell decides her next step and possible action toward the University of Arkansas.

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