Long: Winds of change were blowing at Arkansas

Former Razorback AD says he’s proud of accomplishments at UA

By Bart Pohlman

Former Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said he was surprised by his Nov. 15 firing, but is also felt that change could be coming.

In an interview with Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly on Monday, Long said he didn’t anticipate that change happening quite so quickly.

“Yes, I was surprised,” Long said. “But you could feel the winds of change happening. I didn’t realize they would happen as quickly as they did. But they did. To say I wasn’t surprised wouldn’t be true. I was surprised as it came to a culmination very quickly.”

Long said the university’s board of trustees decided to move in a different direction, and that he didn’t agree with the decision.

“I simply know that the (University of Arkansas) board of trustees decided they wanted to move in a different direction, and the president and the chancellor followed suit,” Long said. “I respect their authority to do that. That’s why we have boards—they’re 10 people who have the best interest of the university at heart, and they felt it was time to make a change. I get that. I’m not bitter. I understand they can make that choice.

“…It happens in the industry. I’m not happy about it. I’m incredibly, incredibly proud of the program we built, and the shape we left it in.”

A few weeks following Long’s dismissal, the university also fired football coach Bret Bielema. Long said he and chancellor Joe Steinmetz had a plan for how to handle Bielema’s future, and he doesn’t think that plan was part of the reason for his firing. But Long does think the way the football season played out was an attributing factor.

“I think a 4-8 season with the decision makers was probably what put it over the top.”

As for Bielema, Long said he was surprised it didn’t work out, and understands the consequences of that.

“When you hire someone who’s won three Big Ten championships, you expect them to have more success,” Long said. “I’m surprised he didn’t have more success. I’m sure Bret’s surprised he didn’t have more success. But his credentials, his accomplishments—I would say he was the most accomplished coach Arkansas has ever hired. But it didn’t work. It didn’t work out. We didn’t make the progress. Therefore, in a 4-8 season, myself and he were shown the door.”

Despite the firing, Long said the letters and emails he’s received and conversations he’s had with Razorback fans in the aftermath have been uplifting and appreciated.

“I was incredibly proud to be the AD here, incredibly proud to represent them, represent the student-athletes,” he said. “I will miss not being the leader here. But they’ve hired a good person behind me in Hunter Yuracheck. They’ve got a great coaching staff, a great administrative staff, and I wish them all the best moving forward.”