Hog Calls:

Few frowns found after Long’s ouster

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long talks with fans prior to a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.
Photo by Rick McFarland
Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long talks with fans prior to a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Arlington, Texas.

FAYETTEVILLE -- It seems so intertwined, last week's firing of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Athletic Director Jeff Long and the statewide anticipated departure of Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema.

Yet in many ways, Long's firing and Bielema's expected departure are separate entities.

Long hired Bielema. But their disfavor doesn't stem from the same roots.

Long didn't win enough hearts.

Bielema didn't win enough games.

Two halves away from finishing 9-4 in 2016 instead of 7-6, Bielema's Razorbacks lost lopsided halftime leads at Missouri and against Virginia Tech. His Razorbacks (4-7 overall, 1-6 SEC) wrap up this season Friday against Missouri in Fayetteville.

Few with Bielema's five-year marks -- 29-33 overall, 11-28 in the SEC -- see season six.

Bielema's then-excused 3-9, 0-8 debut in 2013 in the wake of Bobby Petrino's scandalous departure and John L. Smith's goofy interim now seems unforgiven amid the skid.

And his 2014 (7-6) and 2015 (8-5) bowl-winning Razorbacks lose luster.

Still, even today Bielema is appreciated by most Razorbacks fans and nearly all who played for him and worked for and with him. A good guy restoring good ideals to a shattered program. He generally will be admirably remembered even while regretfully recalled for not remotely approaching his 68-24 Wisconsin record.

Long's detractors often are not so kind despite the new buildings and academic improvements on his watch.

Fulfilling the wishes of John White, the UA Chancellor who hired him, Long embittered many who played, coached and worked for Frank Broyles during Broyles' iconic 50 years as either head football coach or athletic director at Arkansas. Broyles era fans felt the Razorbacks belonged to all of Arkansas.

Long, an Ohio native, arriving corporate to his suit, obliged White in detouring the athletic department from the Broyles influence.

From the petty -- such as omitting Broyles' from the 2008 Razorbacks football media guide, akin to an Old Testament minus Moses -- to purging the since-razed Broyles Center of nearly all the people that Broyles hired, Long disgruntled Broyles backers.

Broyles emphasized the Razorbacks are built on long-term relationships.

Long coldly embodied cash.

Long marketed the Razorbacks as a "brand." Marketing the Razorbacks like a brand of beans exposed the fact that Long didn't know beans about Arkansas.

To Arkansas, the Razorbacks aren't a brand, but an essential fabric unifying the entire state.

Arkansas' national reputation for Southern hospitality was immediately eradicated by Long-Petrino. Officials from the Cotton Bowl, historically the coveted bowl from Arkansas' Southwest Conference days, privately wished Petrino's Razorbacks never return.

With Dave Gearhart, White's successor, seeming to grant Long's every wish, Long never reined in Petrino. A brilliant coach but an also previously proven unsavory egomaniac, Petrino finally so egregiously violated UA policy that he had to be fired.

Long got a bonus for firing Petrino rather than reprimanded for apparently looking the other way until Petrino ran irrevocably amok.

Ironically, Bielema, the coach Long admirably hired to successfully restore Arkansas' football character, became Long's football finale.

Sports on 11/22/2017


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