David Harten is an online sports/preps and general assignment reporter. Originally from Louisville, Ky., he is a 2009 graduate of Western Kentucky University.
Long highlights facilities in Touchdown Club address
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long greets a fan Monday following his address at the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long made it clear Monday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club that he wanted to address "the elephant in the room" — the "elephant" being the future of Razorback football games at Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium.
Long, appearing before the club for the sixth consecutive season, said it was a matter he wanted to address for the crowd of around 400, even though the stadium's contract doesn't expire until the end of the 2016 season. Long said that while he has been in contact with members of the War Memorial Stadium Commission, there isn't much urgency for the two sides to address it immediately.
Several factors will also play into the decision regarding how many, if any, games come to Little Rock after the current contract expires, Long said. Among them, he said, is the possibility of the Southeastern Conference adding a ninth conference game on the schedule, which has been a topic of discussion since the league added Missouri and Texas A&M prior to the 2012 season.
In addition to the subject of War Memorial Stadium, Long's spent a considerable amount of time updating fans in central Arkansas about the athletic departments' many projects currently in progress in Fayetteville. Long said that two anonymous Little Rock donors have pledged a total of $1.3 million toward the construction of the proposed basketball practice facility, which Long called a "start" later in his meeting with media. However, Long added that, with the facility estimated to cost about $23 million, the school has "a long way to go."
Long also announced that a central Arkansas donor pledged $500,000 to the newly dedicated, 80,000-square-foot Fred W. Smith Football Center. As part of the donation, the tight end meeting room will be named after Garrett Uekman, the Arkansas player who died of complications from an enlarged heart in November 2011.
Long added that 65 percent of the facility is underground, with a heavy focus put on the locker and training rooms to better care for student athletes.
He also said he's happy with the progress Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and his staff have made, both on and off the field. Long lauded Bielema for appearing at more than 70 events across the state before the season started and called Bielema "his own recruiting coordinator," adding that Bielema's genuine approach helps him attract top talent to Fayetteville.
"He is involved in recruiting from Day One," Long said.
In his meeting with media, Long addressed the men's basketball team's nonconference schedule, which was called one of the softest in the nation by ESPN.com last week. Long questioned the assessment, saying those numbers were based on last year and there's no way of knowing how the teams Arkansas will face this season will do.
The team is "certainly pleased with" the basketball schedule, Long said.
Read more about this story in tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.