I remember sitting in Jeff Long‘s office last fall. Two things about our conversation struck me: His sincere belief in the importance of his student-athletes’ academic development and his unwavering support of Bret Bielema.
With Long’s ouster, Bielema has lost his most ardent supporter and should prepare himself for being out of work shortly as well.
When assessing the job Bielema had done, and was doing, at Arkansas, Long always kept the complete picture in mind. He recognized the work Bielema’s players did in the community. How well they represented the university. How easy Bielema was to work with, not only for Long but for everyone else in the athletic department – a stark departure from Bielema’s predecessor, Bobby Petrino.
Long took into account the high academic achievement of Bielema‘s student-athletes. And he also recognized Bielema needed to win more games, ultimately. Bielema’s record in Arkansas is terrible – 29-32 overall, 11-27 in the SEC.
Long balanced that against everything else Bielma had accomplished, which was exceptional.
With that in mind, I think Long was planning to give Bielema one more year to produce a winner. I think Long‘s dismissal is the result of other powerful entities in that state and connected to the Razorbacks being unwilling to give Bielema that same grace.
Jeff Long is too good at his job and too committed to the student-athletes and administrators he works with there to just up and quit on a Wednesday morning in November in the middle of the academic year.
That Long won’t be in charge when the Razorbacks open their renovated north and zone at Razorback Stadium next fall is a damn shame because of the vision and work he put into the $160 million project. Long was so proud of that when we met, and it will stand as his crowning achievement – atop many others – for his decade of service to the university.
My read on this situation is that Long was being pressured to dump Bielema and said “no.” As a result, he’s been dumped himself. Without Long in the building and with the current state of the Arkansas football team, it’s hard for me to imagine Bielema coaching the Razorbacks in 2018.
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