As a long time Razorback fan and sometimes financial booster, I have some strong feelings regarding the direction of our athletic program(s) particularly when it comes to our revenue sports such as football and basketball. While I think Jeff Long does a tremendous job with certain aspects of out Athletic Director position, I think there is a cultural disconnect between him and the average Razorback fan that has weakened the Razorback product over the years to where it has, at times, become unwatchable - particularly if you hold any passion for Arkansas athletics. I don’t think Jeff Long really understands how important Razorback athletics are to the people of this state. Look at any quality of life rating (such as incidence of poverty or educational achievement) and Arkansas ranks among the worst states in the country using those metrics. We are constantly lambasted as being inbred or ignorant or just plain stupid. As someone who is tired of these stereotypes being thrown at us fellow Arkansans for as long as I can remember, I could always count on our sport’s teams to raise my self esteem to a level that I could proudly wear my Razorback gear anywhere without hesitation. But today, “not so much”.
Jeff Long has been a fabulous builder and upgrader of facilities. He has also done an exceptional job at “grand visioning” for Arkansas athletics’ long term planning program. He handled the Bobby Petrino saga about as well as a mess like that could be handled. Yes, he probably made a mistake in bringing back John L. Smith but hind sight during a crisis like that is always 20/20. He has also managed to keep our athletic department solvent when some many Power 5 athletic departments are riddled with debt. He was also a good representative for Arkansas as chairman of the Final Four committee and today as a member.
My problem with him is that he simply does not do a good job at quality control when it comes to the results produced by his coaches. He seems to “hand over the keys” to his coaches and then becomes “hands off” in terms of supervising their performance. Say what we will about Frank Broyles, but would have had his head coach in his office on Monday morning after a 56-3 loss to a conference rival requesting some sort of action plan to improve the team’s performance dramatically for the rest of the season. In Jack Crowe’s case, it became a termination after an embarrassing loss to The Citadel. I don’t think there is any doubt that Bret Bielema was a much better coach for Wisconsin than for us because at Wisconsin he had Barry Alvarez leaning on him. Furthermore, look at Wisconsin’s basketball program. They have been excellent over the last few years because Barry Alvarez is there to “coach his coaches”. Broyles used to do it too. Just ask Lou Holtz or Eddie Sutton or Nolan Richardson. Yes, it can be unpleasant but it gets results. I seriously doubt any of that goes on with Jeff Long and the lack of production shows.
Whether we like it or not, we all need to be pushed in order to achieve our best. I have a business where I have some very unreasonable customers who I simply dislike on a personal level. But on a professional level, their demands helped me do a better job and I made money off of their business. The quality of work I did for them was always top notch. My i’s were always dotted and my t’s were always crossed. While they might have not liked me or me them, they helped me be successful.
When I spend several hundred dollars to take me and my loved ones or friends to a game, I want to see maximum effort from all involved on the Arkansas sideline. I (and so do you) deserve to see a competitive product. Yes, it’s nice to sit in a luxurious venue with all kinds of lights and sound effects etc. but it is kind of pointless if you see something slightly better than mediocre on its best day.
Simply put, in my opinion Jeff Long has the notion that we can simply build or upgrade something and the wins and championships will follow. In reality, the best Razorback teams went out and won first allowing the passion of the Arkansas fan base to demand that state-of-the-art facilities be built or improved to better reward and celebrate our Razorback triumphs and feel the incomparable pride of being from Arkansas. Unfortunately that is not how it works anymore.
Personally, I think you are off base. It is your opinion that Long does not hold the coaches accountable for on-the-field performance or that, because he is not from the south, that he cannot understand the importance of athletics to the people of Arkansas, as if fans in other parts of the country cannot be as competitive and as interested in wins as we are. I know the SEC is a special place with special fans, but we do not have a monopoly on the desire to win.
Has Jeff Long handled everything perfectly? Of course, not. He’s not Frank Broyles, and in some ways, that’s a good thing; in others, it’s not. The improvements made to facilities have been great, and that’s part of his job as AD to give his coaches everything he can to help them be successful, not to wait until they are successful to make the improvements they needed. If the coaches fail to perform and he’s given them all they need to be successful, then he can do the hard job of relieving them from their duties knowing he had done his part.
I see this is your first post, so welcome! Hope you enjoy the board.
I’m not a huge Jeff Long fan, that said, I don’t think it is a good idea for the AD to have the HC in his office the Monday after a huge loss to discuss his plans. I loved JFB, but frankly (pun intended) the fact that he was a former coach was one of his weaknesses. He couldn’t leave them alone and let them coach. The END OF THE SEASON is when you have those sit downs.
You hire good people (or at least people you think are good people). You let them do their jobs. If they do not do their jobs well, you deal with it. In sports, that time is almost always at the end of the season.
Argument against what I just said: LSU. Would they have turned themselves around if Les hadn’t been fired when he was? Probably not. But even with that exception. it is generally best to wait until the end of the year and then have that sit down. Even JFB only fired one coach in the middle of the year, and that didn’t do anything to help us.
Thanks for the welcome. I am happy to be able to share some of my frustration even if we don’t see eye to eye regarding what Jeff Long should do or, in this case, should not do. In a perfect world, it would be nice for Jeff to wait for the conclusion of the season to evaluate coaching performance. Unfortunately, when we go 7-5 in football after suffering humiliating defeats at Auburn and at Missouri, we don’t live in a perfect world. Unfortunately, when we go 16-16 in basketball and don’t even make post season play in any form, we don’t live in a perfect world. It can be argued that Frank Broyles was far too involved in the day-to-day operations of both the football and basketball programs especially when he told Ken Hatfield to fire some of his assistants ultimately pushing Hatfield to take the Clemson job without even visiting the campus. Or when he fired Jack Crowe after one game leaving the program in disarray for our first year of SEC football in 1992. On the basketball front, Eddie Sutton said he would crawl to Lexington Kentucky, in part, to get away from Frank Broyles. Broyles also suggested that Nolan Richardson should consult with Bobby Knight to learn about defensive basketball. As we all know, that “went over like a lead balloon.” Despite Broyles ham handed approach, with the exception of Jack Crowe all those coaches won a lot more than they lost.
On the other hand, Jeff Long has pushed through a 160 million dollar demolition and rebuild of the north end zone building. I am not sure if Frank Broyles’ name will still be attached to it. I know it is being paid for with private money or at least does not take away from any project being done on the greater campus. Also, I am sure it will be beautiful. However, the question must be asked if this will improve our program’s national standing in terms of being competitive? I believe the answer is no. Furthermore, it certainly will not improve the academic prowess of our great land grant university. For those of us who have donated to the capital improvement cause (and still do) for our athletic facilities, will the product on the field be better? Has or will the basketball facility improve our basketball team’s prospects to win and become relevant on the national stage? The answer to that one has yet to be determined but is certainly did not help us land the highly coveted recruits from North Little Rock (Florida) or Bentonville (Kentucky).
In the meantime, our football team blows a 24-7 halftime lead to get beat by Missouri. Earlier in the year, we go to Auburn and face a former Arkansas high school coach with several former assistants with Arkansas ties and we get beat 56-3 with our deepest offensive penetration (leading to a field goal) stopping at the Auburn 37 yard line. Admittedly, two weeks later we drum a mediocre Florida team 31-10 but the week after that we get smoked by LSU 38-10.
My point is that until Jeff Long improves the product on the field or court, he should refrain from building or upgrading facilities that have not contributed to the bottom line known which in this case is wins and losses. If they want to fill up stadiums and arenas, they need to win. Razorback fans are discerning enough to support a winner or even a loser so long as the desire and effort are there and the future looks brighter than the past.
In order to do that, Jeff Long needs to exercise some tough love and make these coaches understand that the mediocre phase of rebuilding the football and basketball programs is over and it’s time to produce some truly excellent results or a business decision will have to be made. We all perform better when we feel real pressure and discomfort knowing our professional reputation is on the line. Right or wrong, it’s Jeff Long’s job to make his coaches understand that.
There is certainly validity to some of what you say. (I’m not going to parse it.) There is a fine line between holding coaches responsible and meddling.
There is also the need for some patience in the rebuilding process or processes. Rebuilding may not be as smooth as we (the fans) would like it. We need to try to be patient when things interfere (losing players that were expected to stay, and before their replacements are ready).
I’m frustrated with the football team this year, but I’m not ready to pull the plug yet. We live in a What-have-you-done-for-me-lately? world and that attitude is worse than ever. I’m not saying that is your attitude, just that it is prevalent. Rebuilding is harder in football than in any other sport, as you know. There are just so many positions that must be restocked. Any coach is going to want his team to match his concept. That simply takes time.
I do dislike the complaints about the stadium expansion and “how is this going to help us” and “there is a better use for the money” stuff. First, everything else aside, just having more of a “bowl” for the stadium will help us. It will be louder. I think much louder, but we will see. Second, if we don’t use the money to do this, we don’t have the money. It isn’t like we had a pot of money sitting around and just thought “we ought to spend it, what do we want to spend it on?” No. We don’t have a waiting list for regular seats. No need to add regular seats. We do have a waiting list for suits (not from me, I wish, but I most likely never even see the inside of one, I know I will never “own” one!). The money from the “sale” of the suits will pay for the construction. If you don’t build them, you don’t have the money. It can not be spent somewhere else.
If I owned a car dealership (again I wish!) and was selling out of trucks, had a waiting list for trucks, but had lots of 2 door cars left on the lot. Should I say “well, haven’t sold all the cars on the lot, so not going to order anything else until we sell out of everything” or should I say, “I need more trucks, yes, I have excess 2 door cars, but I can sell more trucks so lets order them!” I think the logical choice is the later.
Again, the expansion will not help me at all. I can’t even afford seats in the lower sections, much less seats in suits.
Like Marty, I agree with much of what you are saying, Swine. If anybody wants to win and win now, it has to be Jeff Long. It only helps build his reputation as an AD, but he realizes what took place with the basketball team last year with a player turning pro unexpectedly and then the off-the-court fiasco that surely CMA never saw happening. It was a setback for a program that seemed to be on the rise. It appears that this year’s team may be righting the ship. This year’s football team is hard to explain. Again, an unexpected player turning pro hurt the offensive line, but that’s no excuse. It was a setback for CBB. Next year will be a decisive season. The team will either be better or Long may have to start getting a short list together. We’ll see. I know I don’t know what the inner workings of the program are, and only those there know how “hands-on” Jeff Long is.
But I do appreciate calm debate with different opinions. Helps us all to learn.
I appreciate everybody’s opinions. I also appreciate the rational conversation that we are having. I am not suggesting we fire Mike Anderson or Bret Bielema anytime soon. I want those guys to succeed. My concern is what we use as a measurement to define success or, just as importantly, failure. After 4 years, I would hope that getting beat 56-3 or blowing a 17 point halftime lead over one of the worst teams in the conference was not possible. After 6 years, I would hope that our basketball team could at least make the post season NIT regardless of player losses to the professional ranks. I am a realist in that I don’t expect us to duplicate the achievements of the 1994 basketball team or the 1964 football team. But with all the building that has gone related to both sports over the last 6 years, I am failing to see the return on investment. This comes from a guy who remembers when the saw dust pit in Barnhill Fieldhouse served as our indoor practice facility up until the mid 70s when the north end zone building was completed. So, please forgive me if I sound harsh but sometimes we have to get a little bit harsh if we want to get where we want to go. I just hope Jeff Long would feel the same passion. As of right now, I am just not seeing it.
How do you know that the new facilities haven’t helped the bottom line, it could have been worse without them. Of course, this isn’t something where there is a definitive mark in which you can judge them. The NEZ is a project that should pay for itself, time will tell if it does. It will definitely improve the look and ambience of the stadium, and thus improve our image on T.V., which improves our brand. Now, will that guarantee wins, of course not, but it won’t hurt, for sure.
Nick Saban has a process at Alabama. We have one here too. And processes take time, and have hiccups along the way. Bama “only” won 10 games in 2010 and didn’t even make a BCS bowl. To them, that’s a hiccup. This year for us was a hiccup after three years of steady progress under BB. Now if we’re 6-6 next year, that’s not a hiccup, that’s a trend. Last year in hoops, with the departures of Portis (expected) and Qualls, Babb and Jacorey (not expected) was also a hiccup. Things look so far like they’re headed back in the right direction at BWA. If they turn in the other direction, MA’s seat will be scalding.
Jeff Long is being paid a lot of money to direct our athletic programs, all 19 of them. He has to win, and make money, and make sure our athletes graduate, and keep the donors happy, and juggle a few dozen other balls we don’t even know exist. I wouldn’t want his job. But part of that job description is patience. Duke was patient enough to keep Coach K after he struggled his first few years, and boy has that paid off in spades. Not saying BB or MA are potential Sabans or Coach K’s, but not saying they’re not either.
The expansion won’t help you if you sit upstairs, but the improvements to the rest of the stadium will. And about 70% of the cost of this project is for stadium upgrades, not for the 4000+ added seats, which will cost something like $46 million. New/improved concourses, improved access for fans who sit upstairs (meaning elevators), video board on the south end, things like that; that’s where the bulk of the money is going. And the new game day locker room, which won’t help the fans either but will help the team. IMO the few extra seats are largely a vehicle to provide revenue to pay for the rest of the project.
With all due respect, I think that we have shown enough patience with regard to the “process” of building a top 25 program on an annual basis in either football or men’s basketball. Neither team has broken through even though both coaches have pretty much recruited most, if not all, of the players on each roster. At some point Jeff Long has to evaluate whether the “process” is working for both programs. After this long (no pun intended), AD Long should have enough objective data to determine if a trend is tracking in a positive or negative manner. In my view, the trend for football is that it is in a holding pattern with both negatives (embarrassing losses) and positives (a solid beat down of Florida for the first time since joining the conference). Long’s job is ensure that the football program trends upward. To do that, I would argue he needs to being having serious discussions with Bret Bielema on a periodic basis both during and after the season. Fortunately, the basketball program seems to be trending up. In my opinion, if Mike Anderson can build upon the decent early season start then Jeff Long can stay away and let Anderson do his job. If Anderson cannot, then Jeff Long needs to make his presence felt.
I just hope both coaches wake up and Long can go back to tearing down and building facilities as well as other mundane tasks an Athletic Director is supposed to do.
Anderson might be trending upward especially with a great class next year but I still want to see if he really is a good HC or just a sound position coach! As for Bielema, Long has given him a long leash in a manner of a huge buyout so he will be very reluctant to fire him but I agree he can strongly suggest he make changes starting with DC. The fan base criticism of Bielema would diminish some if he would replace what most view as the Achilles heel of the coaching staff.
Some good info. I think its true there is a fine line between meddling and accountability. Perhaps some of the criteria to retain HC’s should be shared. The Houston Cougars apparently no problem saying that 8-4 or 7-5 is not acceptable. I would like for AD Long to say out in the open what is success for Arkansas. Is it 9-3 and 10-2 on a regular basis with a blooper year here and there once every 4-5 years? However, I’m not one of these guys that want the HC removed until he has had his full term of contract exhausted to get to the above 9-3 or 10-2. Perhaps the contract terms in the future should be for 4 years instead of more? We have top notch facilities and should therefore be getting in the top 15 recruiting classes consistently. HOGS YA’LL.