Long has Brought Wins to More than Football
Fans tend to judge the university’s athletic department by one program. Football is the most popular sport in the country, and especially the most popular in the Southeastern Conference. Therefore, when the football program is not winning, there is a sense among fans that the sky is falling.
When things start to go badly, fans start looking for someone to blame. Blame gets directed toward players, coaches and even the athletic director. It certainly lies with each of these groups of people, but those members of the fan base calling for Athletic Director Jeff Long’s head should probably have their own brains examined.
For starters, an athletic director is responsible for much more than the football program. He is charged with the task of making sure that 17 different athletic programs have every opportunity to have success. So far, Long has done a pretty good job.
Long was named the Athletic Director January 1, 2008. Since then, he has made Arkansas sports among the premier programs in the nation.
The volleyball program is a great example of one Long has helped grow. In the 2007-08 season, the team went 12-19. In July 2008, Long hired Robert Pulliza to replace Chris Poole, who had left for Florida State.
In Pulliza’s first season, the team took a step back with a record of 7-23. Since then, the team has improved each year and has not had a season with less than 13 wins. This year, the team is 12-3 with many games left to be played.
Long is also responsible for bringing men’s basketball head coach Mike Anderson back to Fayetteville. In Anderson’s first season, the team did not have the success that many fans would have liked and missed the NCAA tournament. But they did beat ranked Michigan early in the season, foreshadowing that there is hope for the upcoming season and seasons to come that Anderson will be able to return the team to its former glory.
Of course, Long’s biggest hire, and the first one he made at Arkansas, was that of former head football coach Bobby Petrino. Long might be even better known for his firing of Petrino. At the time, most fans were behind him. They wanted to protect the integrity of the football program, the athletic department and the University.
However, now that the team is losing, many fans have changed their minds. Some would even like to make a mockery of the UA by rehiring Petrino. Anybody holding out hope that Petrino is back on the sidelines for next season really needs to let that go. It’s not going to happen.
Long did the right thing in letting Petrino go, and he made the best decision that was available to him in hiring interim head coach John L. Smith. Now he is working, and will continue to work, to find a long-term solution.
I have complete faith that Long will make the right hire. I would imagine that he hates to see the Razorbacks lose as much as the fans do, and he will do everything in his power to return the program to the glory and success it had started to enjoy.
Haley Markle is the assistant sports editor for The Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every Monday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.