Arkansas program needs Long’s full attention

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer Sports

How should Razorback fans take the news that Texas was not only interested in but also likely offered Jeff Long its athletics director position?

Some might say Hog fans ought to be glad that little ol’ Arkansas has a high-placed asset that the Longhorns covet.

No doubt there is truth to that. Texas wasn’t going to attempt to hire an inept candidate for it’s AD job, and it didn’t by luring Steve Patterson away from Arizona State.

The Longhorns have the money and the clout to go after the best of the best, and right now Long is viewed as being just that.

While Long hadn’t necessarily been hiding under a bushel as Pittsburgh or Arkansas’ AD, he became nationally known figure in college athletics in April of 2012 by the way he handled the dismissal of Bobby Petrino, whom he hired as the Hogs football coach in 2008.

Petrino’s actions made his dismissal a necessity for the UA, but Petrino’s success on the field made his removal a delicate subject to the fan base. To this day there are more than a few fans that would have been happy if the UA had just looked the other way or delivered a slap on Petrino’s wrist and allowed him to keep doing what he did best, win.

However, no one who watched Long expertly lay out Arkansas’ case for dismissing Petrino in a nationally televised news conference on ESPN could come away unimpressed with Long. He showed leadership and strength in as trying of a professional situation as one could imagine.

Long’s work that day was not only the catalyst for bringing Bret Bielema to be Arkansas’ head coach, but it also caught the interest of university chancellors and presidents. The Associated Press reported that Stanford made a run at hiring Long last year, which garnered him a salary boost and contract extension.

Long’s recent selection as the first chair of the 13-member College Football Playoff Selection Committee came not only as a result of his qualifications but also because of his notoriety generated from the Petrino scandal. No doubt Texas’ interest in him was sparked by the same reasons — qualifications and notoriety.

Long has practically become a rock star among ADs.

The bad thing about rock stars is that they have egos that must be stroked.

From the letter Arkansas Chancellor Dave Gearhart wrote to Long last Friday concerning a $100,000 bonus Long would receive that was reported today in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it’s not a stretch to infer Texas actually offered Long the job. Gearhart wrote “another institution… expressed its desire to retain his services.”

No doubt an offer from Texas and a bonus that is more than double the annual median household income in the state is a stroke to Long’s ego.

One hopes it will be sufficient to keep him situated in Fayetteville at least until Bielema and Mike Anderson are able to get the football and basketball programs on sound footing. Both programs are in the process of rebuilding and those efforts need stability at the top.

The last thing Bielema, Anderson and for that matter the rest of Arkansas’ coaches need is to be worrying about who their next boss will be.

To Long’s credit, when his name was first linked to the Texas job weeks ago, he publically said he was not interested in any other job.

With both football and basketball being down at the same time, Arkansas’ program rests on a tenuous point. Hog fans are proud, but they do need someplace where they can invest their pride. At the moment, the two main revenue sports aren’t providing that.

I have personal belief based on their track records, Bielema and Anderson will return the Hogs to prominence in football and basketball, but at the moment the job is undone.

Hopefully, Long can deflect the outside interference his notoriety is drawing to the program, and he can focus on efforts that support Bielema, Anderson and the other Razorbacks coaches in getting their jobs done.

At the moment Arkansas’ athletics program needs all the attention its athletics director can give it.