Jeff Long’s tenure as Director of Athletics at Arkansas ended on Wednesday after nearly 10 years. His time on The Hill was not always perfect, but it was definitely not a disaster either. In 2017, it feels like you have to be one or the other and there is no in between.
It feels like nuance is dead.
You have to bring it back to life if you are going to tell the tale of Jeff Long’s time at Arkansas. He did some things that were great, and some things that were not so good.
I think he made some excellent hires when it comes to coaches. Problem is, he did it in sports that are not football. Mike Neighbors seems to be on his way to bringing Razorback women’s basketball back to relevance. Colby Hale has women’s soccer achieving at a historically high level. There have been others.
He also had some hires that did not work so well. Bobby Petrino was good at the time but ended in a ditch in Crosses, Arkansas. Jimmy Dykes had no business being in charge of women’s basketball. Bret Bielema looked good on paper, but having zero ties to this region of the country proved to be more important than school executives realized.
Arkansas desperately needed a basketball training center and, under Long’s leadership, it got one. It is already paying off for both men’s and women’s basketball on the recruiting front.
Long did not resolve the War Memorial Stadium issue. Wanting to move all the games to Fayetteville had something to do with his ouster in my opinion.
Long supporter the players that knelt during the national anthem at a women’s basketball game one day before Veteran’s Day last year. That caused some people to stop writing checks in my opinion.
Long gave Bielema a crazy high buyout, raise and extension after the Hogs crushed one of the worst Texas football teams any of us had ever seen in the Texas Bowl.
In the end, maybe it was that tight connection to Bielema that cooked his goose in Fayetteville. There have been plenty of reasons throughout this season to dump Bret Bielema and ride the year out with an interim head coach, but Long didn’t do that.
Bielema did not win enough football games, and Long is the first person to pay the price.