Long inches, not Miles, away from coach

By: Wally Hall
Published: Sunday, December 2, 2012
Jeff Long could announce Arkansas' next coach within the next 48-72 hours.
Photo by Michael Woods
Jeff Long could announce Arkansas' next coach within the next 48-72 hours.

— After the fiasco with LSU Coach Les Miles, and that’s what it was, rumors finally died down concerning the search for the Arkansas Razorbacks’ next head football coach.

Just to finalize that fiasco and put the finishing touches on it, it appears Miles took advantage of a 25-year friendship with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long and had zero concern how it would make Long and the UA look. He just wanted more money and was going to do whatever it took to get it, even if it meant throwing his friend under the bus.

How far back do Long and Miles go? Their daughters went to kindergarten together in Ann Arbor, Mich.

When Long called to discuss a couple of candidates with his old friend, Miles asked what about me. Long laughed and said Miles would never leave LSU. Miles said LSU was dragging its feet on his contract extension, then Miles said he would call his agent and get back with Long. That was the extent of it. The next thing Long knew it had gone viral that Miles had been offered more than $25 million for five years. Not long after that first call, Miles called Long back and said he was right, that he was happy in Baton Rouge.

All Long could do at that point was weather the storm. Miles said at his Wednesday news conference that he and Long had never mentioned specific numbers, that everything was preliminary.

Yeah, it was less than that, but Miles got his raise and Long got a little egg on his face. But it will soon be forgotten because it is expected that Long will announce the new head coach this week.

It seems obvious now that someone Long was interested in had a game Saturday. Long has said from Day 1 that he would not interview a coach until his season was over. Everyone’s regular season ended Saturday.

The last thing I want to do is fan the fires of old rumors, but some of the names heard in the past few weeks as “done deal” coaches for Arkansas were working Saturday.

Gary Patterson at TCU was taking on Oklahoma, but Patterson has always seemed like a long shot. He’s in a Bowl Championship Series conference, his program is on solid ground and he’s happy in Fort Worth, as is his wife, who is from the area.

Coach Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys played Baylor, where Art Briles is the coach. Briles would seem like a strong candidate except that the Bears locked him down with a reported $4 million buyout.

Gundy has been one of the flavors of the week when talking about the UA job, but his name was really hot for almost a week and then went stone cold. There is probably a reason.

Chris Petersen of Boise State played Nevada on Saturday, and he’s a popular name with every opening in the country. He’s turned down Stanford and UCLA in the past, and he’s a West Coast guy. Petersen and his wife are entrenched in the community and have made at least one six-figure donation to the school. He is an intriguing name, though.

Even the name of Bo Pelini, who led Nebraska to the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday, has popped up. But Pelini’s sideline antics make what Bobby Petrino did last year at LSU look like he had a man crush on Miles.

Of course, Long might have someone else in mind altogether. Plus, he’s having to overcome the rumor that he was willing to pay Miles more than $25 million. That might have hurt his negotiations more than anything else.

Long can pay a top 25 salary because of the SEC’s lucrative TV package — and it is only going to get better — but Long wants a top 25 coach.

From the time it was obvious John L. Smith would not be retained, Long has worked on eliminating a lot of guys. He’s talked to a lot of athletic directors, agents and even coaches, and only one took advantage of the situation, which should end this week.

Sports, Pages 23 on 12/02/2012