Either Jeff Long can’t really read the Arkansas football fan base or, well, he just doesn’t care.
In what is becoming something some view as a trend, Long took to Twitter on Sunday and tried to calm the waters of discontent after the Razorbacks’ meltdown in their last two games against Missouri and Virginia Tech.
And promptly opened a door he may not be able to close easily.
Razorback Nation I reject notion the sky is falling! We are strong & will make changes to become stronger!We will fight we will #Neveryield!
— Jeff Long (@jefflongUA) January 1, 2017
While that may have sounded like a good idea before hitting the final button to submit it, you have to wonder if he really believes it. Fans wasted little time responding.
— Cody (@codylastname) December 30, 2016
Long’s marketing gadgets may be backfiring as well, which was something predicted in these quarters when they came out with the hashtags #NeverYield and #Uncommon.
Several fans took to Twitter to point out that yielding is becoming a pattern in football the fans are starting to tire of.
— Secluded Solid (@f00zz26) January 1, 2017
As for the #Uncommon tag, well, the last four years of Razorback sports in football and basketball have indeed been very mediocre, which some could argue is very common.
When the Hogs blew a 24-7 lead at Missouri, the initial reaction was to just chalk it up as one of those things that happen. Then folks started looking at the history over Bret Bielema’s tenure.
Blowing second half leads is not unusual.
Having it happen again in the Belk Bowl, combined with a player shoplifting from the title sponsor’s store and a player ejected for spitting on another player has made the seat upon which Bielema sits suddenly become very warm.
One problem is there doesn’t appear to be any hope of a quick fix.
The other problem is Long seems to be fairly content with mediocrity. Standing three feet away from him at the end of the Little Rock embarrassment against Toledo in 2015, one expected to see something.
Instead, Long turned and walked back up the tunnel to the locker room … quickly. No, he didn’t wait to stand by his coach. You didn’t expect him to walk on the War Memorial Stadium field and fire him on the spot, but you’d think he’d at least stand by Bielema.
When it was compounded by a loss the next week against Texas Tech, there were still no public demands made from Long, who tends to shy away from that sort of thing which some perceive as weakness.
He was saved by the Hogs taking advantage of some luck and fortunate scheduling to scramble to a 5-3 league mark and a 7-5 finish.
This year’s record was also 7-5, but just 3-5 in the league and with the top three offensive playmakers gone due to graduation, it’s reasonable to have questions about next year.
Long has said in the past that wins and losses weren’t the most important things in an athletic program, which sounds all fluffy and nice, but fans don’t care about all that other stuff if there aren’t considerably more wins than losses.
At some point you start to sound like the Texas Longhorns, who brag about their revenue, but haven’t done anything in wins and losses, which is starting to wake up some of the longtime boosters over there.
The excuse will be given that Bielema has a $15.4 million buyout, which is true. But that doesn’t mean the UA has to be prepared to write a check on the dismissal date.
It can be strung out through 2020 and is payable every month on the last day of the month. While the overall number is rather large, it is manageable, especially considering it is reduced by whatever job he took next.
Having said that, any thoughts of firing Bielema now are unreasonable. He’ll get one more year.
But there will have to be changes made, with assistants, schemes and approach.
Most importantly there has to be a change in the culture.
While all of the off-the-cuff comments, laid-back dress and flip-flops are cute, it doesn’t project an air of seriousness in and around the football program unless it’s winning and competing for championships.
The fans don’t want to hear what Bielema did at Wisconsin. Considering the Badgers have gotten better since Bielema left doesn’t help his argument by invoking past history.
Make no mistake about it, the spotlight is fixing to be pointed at the football program over the next 12 months. Nothing will matter to most of the fans other than the number of wins.
How Long reacts to that is also going to be in the spotlight.
Long has 30 days from the end of the Belk Bowl to provide a written analysis to Bielema. It’s doubtful we’ll ever see that letter.
Let’s just hope it wasn’t what Long tweeted.
Four years without seriously competing for a championship is too long.