Long: No Replacement in Mind
When Jeff Long announced his decision to fire Bobby Petrino as Arkansas head football coach, he said hadn’t started to think about Petrino’s replacement yet.
The athletic director did announce that assistant head coach Taver Johnson would remain in charge of the football administrative duties through the end of the Razorbacks’ spring practices.
“I have spoken with assistant coach Taver Johnson and have asked him to continue the responsibility for the football’s administrative operation through the completion of spring practice,” Long said.
Following Tuesday night’s press conference, Long said he would begin searching for Arkansas’ next coach.
“We will maintain as we are through spring practice on April 21,” Long said. “At that time I will assess where we are in the search process and make a decision on an interim head coach going forward.”
The fourth-year Arkansas athletic director said there is no timetable set for hiring a head coach.
“It is so fresh for me and has happened so quickly, I haven’t had a chance to contemplate that.” Long said. “Certainly we are going to conduct a search and determine whether we can attract a head coach that can lead this program.
“If not, we would go with an interim and do a search following the season.”
Long said that deciding on whether or not to name an interim will not affect the process of the coaching search he is set to begin.
“We can command a high-level of football coach and we are not going to compromise that,” Long said. “If we have to go through the season with an interim, I am going to consider that, but again I need some time to lay out the search.”
If Arkansas does not decide to hire a coach to take the spot Petrino was terminated from, Long said he hasn’t decided on who could be an interim head coach, either.
“I think that I have not made a decision on that,” Long said. “Following spring practice, I will make the decision as to who I thought was the best leader on an interim basis. It could be Taver, it could be Paul Haynes or (Paul) Petrino.”
Long met with the remaining Razorback coaching staff and some of the support staff prior to meeting with the Razorback players Tuesday evening.
“I talked to them about the fact I hoped they would carry on, obviously through spring practice, and then I plan on meeting with each of them individually to discuss the future,” Long said. “I will do that with each member of the football coaching staff.”
Long met with the team shortly after the culmination of the team’s Tuesday practice and informed them of his decision.
“I shared with them my disappointment in having to make the difficult decision,” Long said. “I asked them to try and remain focused on their academics and finishing spring practice. I think honestly, they were understandably concerned. Coach Petrino was the leader of their football program.
“At the same time though, they know they have a special football team and teammates that are looking forward to the upcoming year.”
Following consecutive 10-plus-win seasons, Long said he believes the job is more lucrative now than it was when Petrino took the job in December of 2007.
“Certainly the success our young people have had on the field is a great factor in that,” Long said. “I think the additions we made to our football program in upgrading video technology and all those kinds of things.
“Also, upgrading the football stadium with the new artificial surface and then our football complex that we are building now all make the job more attractive than it even was when coach Petrino took the job.”
Long said the timing of his decision to terminate coach Petrino came at an inconvenient time of trying to hire a new coach.
“It is a difficult time of year to be searching for a head coach, no question” Long said. “I do think our program is one that I think people will be interested in and that is part of the process, seeing what coaches self-identify to us that they are interested in our program.”
Long assured that he would conduct the search with character of a new coach at the forefront.
“I assure you that we will seek a head football coach that possesses the expertise, the leadership skills and character to maintain Razorback football as one of the nation’s elite programs,” Long said. “We will maintain a program of student-athletes and coaches that all of Arkansas and Razorback fans across the nation will be proud of.”