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Andy Hodges

Should Long be trusted to fix Razorback football?

Jeff Long has created the mess that is Razorback football these days because he has been allowed to play multi-million dollar games with other people’s money.



It’s hard to find people these days in Bret Bielema’s corner.

Oh, everybody likes him fine, so this is not a personal issue. He’s probably the kind of guy you’d like to go party with.

With Arkansas sitting at 2-3 on the season, you’d think some would be in his corner. The Hogs have been here under him before … in 2015.

The difference was that team beat Tennessee and found something. This team might be different if that fourth quarter in Arlington a couple of weeks ago had turned out a little differently, but it didn’t.

If anything, this team has gone downhill fast since then.

They will likely be 2-5 going into the final week of October. In 2015 they were 2-4 after Alabama, just like this year if things Saturday go the way most people expect.

The difference?

After losing to the Tide, 27-14, in 2015, the Hogs had a bye week. They got some people well, legs back under some others, then got past a mediocre Auburn team in four overtimes and got on a roll.

They won four straight.

This team doesn’t have a bye week to regroup until a couple of days after Thanksgiving, which will be too late for anything.

Barring a complete turnaround, Bielema is done. He has lost the confidence of the fan base, almost totally and completely.

Which has many fans wondering if Jeff Long is noticing.

The bigger question is whether he knows enough about football to understand.

No, seriously.

How he got on the College Football Playoff selection committee is amazing. I’m guessing it has more to do with his ability to stand in front of a microphone and ramble on while saying practically nothing.

Oh, I’m sure Long knows the ball is blown up and not stuffed (he did play quarterback in high school and college), but he either doesn’t know anything in depth about college football, doesn’t have the guts or simply can’t understand the hole being dug for Arkansas football.

It’s one of those three.

You get the idea he tends to look behind instead of ahead when it comes to football. That’s the only reason he would have hired Bielema in the first place.

In December 2012 when it was announced, my opinion on the air and in print was this was the worst fit for an Arkansas head football coach since John Barnhill admittedly had brain freeze and hired Otis Douglas from the Philadelphia Eagles in 1950.

He doubled down on the bad decision by making it a horrible one in the emotion after a Texas Bowl blowout over, well, Texas. That was when he gave Bielema an extension and a buyout that ranks among the most bonehead decisions ever.

After a 6-6 regular season. The only way it would have been less of a bonehead decision was if it had been a 10-2 season.

As Barry Alvarez said in Little Rock a couple of weeks ago, you have to be smarter than the agent and that’s “a bad business model.”

That happens when you let relatively inexperienced people play multimillion dollar games with other people’s money, which is what Long has done.

He hired Bielema based primarily on a love letter after Long’s firing of Bobby Petrino. He obviously didn’t do a lot of research.

If he had, you hope he would have noticed:

• Bielema inherited a ready-made program at Wisconsin built and maintained to this day by Barry Alvarez. He had no individual track record and Long obviously talked to people who only looked at the press releases and didn’t go behind the numbers.

• Bielema’s style was based on HUGE offensive linemen in a conference that didn’t have as much speed as most of Arkansas’ Class 7A high schools had in 2012. He didn’t have a clue about SEC football on a week-in, week-out basis.

• Bielema’s three straight Big Ten titles were some fancy word games (which, come to think about it, may have been what attracted Long). He actually didn’t win three titles … the truth is he finished in a three-way tie for one (2010), shared one (2011, but tied with Penn State in the Jerry Sandusky mess) and backed into the third by winning the title game they stumbled into (after finishing third in their own division) because Ohio State and Penn State were in NCAA jail. So, his claim of three titles is only correct if you add an asterisk to at least two of them, but they did play in three Rose Bowls and lost every one of them. All of this was done in very, very weak Big Ten.

• Anyone knowing anything about football should have known his style has only worked in the SEC at Alabama and LSU where they could get the players to make it work.

Long screwed up by not seeing what a lot of experts saw coming in the SEC and that was more and more speed and less bulk. He may have been talking to his friend from Michigan, Les Miles, who got fired because he was too stubborn to see the obvious changes.

Don’t blame Bielema. He likely didn’t pull a gun on Long or have incriminating photos. He was offered a lot to come here as Long was in a full-blown panic to hire someone with a name. He obviously didn’t give it a lot of in-depth thought, which is another topic (every good athletic director in the country has a working list of coaches and knowledge that is updated daily during the football season).

Blame Long.

Which is why you wonder if the UA’s Board of Trustees will triple-down on the hiring of Long and let him continue to pick the direction for Arkansas football.

At the least they should insist on a selection committee made up of a wide-ranging group. Long shouldn’t be part of it.

It’s Long’s mess that he created because the board let him screw it up.

And, based on his football decisions, Jeffrey doesn’t know enough about it to fix it.


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