UA coaches express appreciation after Long fired

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, November 16, 2017
Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long, left, talks with Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson during the Red/White scrimmage Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Anthony Reyes
Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long, left, talks with Arkansas head basketball coach Mike Anderson during the Red/White scrimmage Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The dismissal of University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Athletics Director Jeff Long by UA Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on Wednesday reverberated through the athletic department.

Long, 58, was a month and a half away from completing his 10th season as Athletic Director after replacing the legendary Frank Broyles.

Steinmetz appointed Julie Cromer Peoples, a UA senior associate athletics director since 2014, as the interim athletics director and announced that a committee would be named to find Long's successor.

Long could not be reached for comment.

[DOCUMENT: Read Jeff Long's termination letter]

Arkansas coaches weighed in Wednesday on Long's dismissal.

Men's basketball Coach Mike Anderson said the news hit him "like a bombshell" after his morning workout at Walton Arena.

Mike Anderson addresses Jeff Long's firing at his weekly press conference

(By Blake Sutton )
[View Full-Size]

"He's been an unbelievable leader," Anderson said. "I guess it's kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around it, the things that have transpired today.

"I think he's done some tremendous things. One of the things I know from being here before and then coming back here, he's made the experience for our student-athletes once-in-a-lifetime. It's helping to prepare these kids for life beyond athletics. ... So I've got to say that he's been a big, big, big help to me even as we recruit kids coming in here."

A four-year member of the College Football Playoff selection committee, Long was named the 2015 Athletic Director of the Year by SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. CFP President Bill Hancock announced Wednesday that Long would continue to serve on the committee.

"I think the part I've enjoyed during my time here is that Jeff from Day One to where we are today has been awesome," football Coach Bret Bielema said on Wednesday's SEC teleconference prior to the official confirmation that Long had been ousted.

"Not only for me personally as a head coach, though of course he's been that, but for our student-athletes. Everything that he stands for. Everything that's he tries to give them off the field and all the services we've provided and all the support that we've given."

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said on Twitter that Long had been an important part of the SEC "and we appreciate his many contributions and leadership as @ArkRazorbacks Athletics Director. Our best wishes are with Jeff and his family!"

[FULL STATEMENT: Read what Jeff Long said after his firing]

Men's track and field coach Chris Bucknam said the news came as a total surprise.

"I haven't really had a chance to process it all," Bucknam said. "I just know that I'm extremely appreciative of him for having the faith in me to run the cross country and track and field program when he hired me back in '08. I'll always be grateful to him for that."

Women's track and field Coach Lance Harter said he heard about the dismissal through a text from Long.

"This morning he sent us a text and said, 'I wish I could have come and addressed you guys individually, but it broke in the media sooner than we had thought. So just to let you all know it's been an honor and a pleasure to work with you.' It was very, very positive.

"Jeff was always very fair to us and very supportive. He really appreciated high performances and championships and was always the first to congratulate us. He also was very good to the kids as far as recognizing them with their individual contributions. I thought that was outstanding."

Long's tenure was thought to be in jeopardy after recent events. The move came six days after a highly publicized meeting of the UA board of trustees. Though Long was not asked to attend the meeting, he accompanied Steinmetz and spent more than three hours outside a room at Pulaski Technical College where the board was in a closed-door executive session. Steinmetz was brought into the room for a segment of the executive session while Long waited outside.

Long's most publicized moment came with his firing of football Coach Bobby Petrino on April 10, 2012, nine days after Petrino wrecked his Harley-Davidson motorcycle with his mistress on board.

In 2013, Long was appointed to the original CFP selection committee and was eventually named its first chairman. He served two seasons as chairman and is wrapping up his fourth and final season on the committee this year.

"Respect everything @jefflongUA has done here at Arkansas, one of the best AD's in the country," wrote senior defensive captain Kevin Richardson on his Twitter account.

Former Razorbacks receiver Drew Morgan posted: "Throughout my Entire career.. at Arkansas to Present, @jefflongUA has been nothing but a Positive influence on my life on and off the field. Best wishes to the best Guy/Family Man out there. Praying for @jefflongUA and his family! #WPS"

Former Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, speaking at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Wednesday, recalled how Long handled the firing of Bobby Petrino and the following season.

Tyler Wilson reacts to Jeff Long's firing at the NWA Touchdown Club

(By Blake Sutton )
[View Full-Size]

"I have nothing but positive things to say about Jeff Long and my time here," Wilson said. "I thought the way he handled the senior year while I was there was so difficult and I think he did such a tremendous job during those times of difficulty.

"To my feelings, kind of surprised this morning when I heard the news. Obviously there's been chatter and talk, but I didn't expect to hear the news today."

Wilson called the events of 2012, when Long fired Petrino following his motorcycle accident and the appointment of John L. Smith as interim coach, an unorthodox situation.

"I certainly felt like he was the figure that everybody looked to during those times," Wilson said. "And he's been that. I think he has been that anchor. He's done an incredible job. You look at the facilities, from the time that he stepped in and what you're looking at today, with the north end zone project and all those things. Arkansas is in a great position in terms of the structure that's in place and the facilities and those kind of things. Those will benefit whoever inherits the program from him."

Bob Holt of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette contributed to this article.


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