Commentary:

Time to think logically about ADs

By: Nate Olson
Published: Friday, November 17, 2017
Jeff Long, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, athletic director, chats Wednesday Sept. 6 2017 after his talk to the NWA Touchdown Club.
Photo by Flip Putthoff
Jeff Long, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, athletic director, chats Wednesday Sept. 6 2017 after his talk to the NWA Touchdown Club.

There is a long list of traits a good Power 5 athletic director should possess.

Being from a state or having familiarity with that program shouldn’t be high on that list. Unless, you are from Arkansas, and then it is paramount, or so it seems.

With no smoking gun or glaring transgressions other than the obvious debacle of a football season, UA suddenly dumped Jeff Long, who has racked up an impressive list of accolades. Long’s reputation among his peers and the NCAA is impeccable, but somehow Long lost the respect in the place it matters most.

Arkansas chancellor Joseph Steinmetz wrote Long had "lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters and members of the university leadership, support that I believe is critical in our pursuit of excellence."

Maybe Long’s biggest fault was that he wasn’t Southern or Arkansas enough. Steinmentz’s statement prompted a chorus of people urging the UA “Hire someone with Arkansas ties.” Because if the next AD is an Arkansan, he most assuredly will get along with everyone, unlike Long who was rude and abrupt and didn’t care about school traditions or its fans. Or so they say.

I’ve got news for Arkansans: Long has always been a transplant - the same transplant that hired Bobby Petrino.

Some have called for Tommy Tuberville or even Houston Nutt to become AD. You want to hire someone who has no athletic administration experience to run the department? Nutt is especially laughable since he was one of the most polarizing figures in Razorbacks history.

Don’t try to convince me that the UA can hire a popular figurehead, and he can hire a staff to do the heavy lifting.

Nutt and Tuberville proponents are going to point out that Barry Alvarez made the transition from coach to AD at Wisconsin. So did popular baseball coaches Skip Bertman at LSU, Ray Tanner at South Carolina and John Cohen at Mississippi State.

And I also know Arkansas’ greatest sports icon, Frank Broyles, made a seamless transition from UA football coach to athletic director. He left in his 80s with a ton of accolades and a great deal of respect and admiration.

While all of that may be true, that’s not the trend. Most ADs have advanced degrees and years of experience in athletic departments. In the current climate of big-time college athletics, the AD has to be equal-part businessman, accountant and personnel director, among a long list of other things. At the bottom of that list is attending fish fries, glad-handing and making impassioned speeches to the fan base.

I am not sure why Arkansas fans feel the need to hire a familiar face. It is probably nostalgia from Broyles’ tenure. He was known for his charm and devotion to the school and state.

It doesn’t matter who Arkansas hires, they won’t be Broyles and be able to “unify the state.” That’s a bygone sentiment.

I get this is a one-team state (sorry, Red Wolves), and there is only one Razorback, etc., but the AD being adored as a cult figure is a silly notion that is nonexistent today.

The fields that Long excelled in such as fundraising, facility upgrades, academic standards and personnel decisions (Bret Bielema’s hiring notwithstanding) are the qualities that school presidents nationwide are looking for. Unless Long is guilty of something major we aren’t privy to yet, he won’t be unemployed long, and in fact, he might even get a promotion to a better program.

He’s proven to everyone, except some in Arkansas, he deserves it.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas fan base will be content with a candidate whose strongest qualification is where he was born.

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