Some interesting stuff from Arkansas’ athletic director Jeff Long, who spoke at the Little Rock Touchdown Club today.
He came out in true Jeff Long fashion, not so much with guns a-blazing – more like rumor flame extinguishers a-spraying – with stuff like this:
“Somebody shared with me that somewhere I was quoted as saying I was going to make the next head football coach at the University of Arkansas the highest-paid coach in the country. That’s simply not true. That would be an irresponsible statement to make.”
Here’s more of Long’s insight into the coaching search
HOW FAR INTO THE PROCESS OF SELECTING A NEXT HEAD COACH?
“Just research at this point … You know, in our world unlike the business world, you just don’t pick out a candidate and go and get him. We have some unwritten protocols that we file try to follow. They’re getting blurrier in our profession – what’s appropriate and what isn’t. I’m going to try to walk that line and and not invade or intrude upon a coach who’s a season. That’s important that you do it the right way. Certainly, there are a lot of third that are trying to get us information parties that are out there that are trying to get us information about those who are interested in those who might not be. We’ve got to walk a fine line there.”
ON REACTING TO FANS’ SUGGESTIONS FOR NEXT COACH
“Trying to judge who you all think would be a quality candidate is really, really difficult because I’ve gotten letters and e-mails from everything from high school coaches to retired coaches to NFL head coaches, so there’s everything in between”
ON THE WIDTH OF THE NET HE’S CASTING
“Certainly top assistants are not out of the question. I think if you just look around our own conference and you look at some of the schools that have great tradition, have great resources and maybe reside in a state with great recruiting – they could have gone out and chosen a proven head coach, and they ended up with a top notch coordinator. So, I’m certainly not going limit my head coaching search to only current head coaches. There are a lot of offensive coordinators, defensive coordintors, who make that step like a Bob stoops did 10, 12 years ago when he went from a coordinator at Florida to a national championship in two years.”
WHEN WILL YOU DECIDE?
“I’m hopeful that we will have a decision made within a couple weeks after the end of the regular season.”
Are you concerned about the amount of attention John L. Smith’s bankruptcy has drawn?
“No I’m not, because I think he dealt with much of it many years ago. I think he’s dealt with this situation for a number of years. I think it was closer to July when he shared that bankruptcy would be becoming more of an option. Back in April, when we hired him, it was still a hope of his that he would avoid bankruptcy and that we could continue to work through the season and thought maybe it would be a couple years down the road before he’d have to make a difficult decision on bankruptcy.”
Has it been a distraction to the program?
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s ever been a student athlete who ever went to practice, who ever went to class, who ever came to a meeting who had any thought of Coach Smith’s financial situation in their minds.”
Did you know the extent of the financial trouble? $25-50 million? [the following response is a transcription by Chris Bahn of Arkansas Sports 360. Read more of his coverage of Jeff Long’s speech here]
“No. No. Certainly, because I don’t think Coach Smith knew the depth of it. Again, it might seem odd to us, to think how do you not know how much debt you’re in? Certainly that’s not a world I play in, but when you’re in that investment world we’ve all seen people have gotten in over their head with financial decisions and the number ends up being the number. No. I’m not shirking responsibility, but I didn’t know the depth. And I don’t think Coach Smith did either until it got very close to the team when he made the decision and his financial advisors made the decision to declare bankruptcy.
I do want to clear up one thing because I did hear this: There was absolutely zero efforts by the University of Arkansas, Razorback athletics, the Razorback Foundation to assist Coach Smith with hiding assets from bankruptcy court. I’ve learned through this process that’s not something we could do, even if we wanted to do. Certainly we were not doing that. Certainly you have to recall we were dealing with a 63-year old coach that was getting a 10-month contract. That coach was interested in his retirement. So working with his financial advisors, not unlike we’ve done with Coach Petrino’s advisors, I’m sure Coach Nutt’s even though I wasn’t here. In any of those situations you work with those financial advisors to decide to structure a package that’s to their benefit and the University’s benefit. So, I just want to be very clear about it. That does bother me that they said we were trying to assist … that is absolutely not true. I think the facts have borne that out.”
On whether Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium will continue to be home to two Razorback games a year
“I really can’t give you a yes or no answer. I can tell you were going to keep two games in Little Rock through 2016 because that’s what we’re contracted for. As I’ve said before, that’s something were going to have to discuss going forward. Again I think it’s got four more years before we will have to make that difficult decision whatever it may be because there are people… on both sides of that fence.”
On how preseason expectations have meshed with the results of the last four games
“… and I know some of you will say ‘Well, wait a minute – we shouldn’t have had to get better. You are supposed to be great to begin with.’ Well you know what, we weren’t. Maybe we weren’t as good as we thought we were. But now we’ve kind of refocused ourselves. We know what’s in front of us. We’ve started to play like we expected to play.”
On the possibility of playing other D1 and D2 schools in the state
“ I do follow Rex [Nelson’s] logic in that if we were to play other state schools they wouldn’t have this perfect undefeated record [likely referring to Ouachita Baptist and Henderson State] and I wouldn’t want to mess that up.”