FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was the guest speaker at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club meeting earlier today.
Long covered plenty of topics in both his address to the crowd, a Q&A with those in attendance, and a Q&A with the media after the meeting ended. One of the most pressing topics was Little Rock and Arkansas' football future in War Memorial Stadium, but Long also spoke about the challenges he has faced with Arkansas' plans to build a basketball practice facility, other facilities under construction and his view of Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and the new staff after their first game.
Below are a few highlights.
Long on Bielema and his coaching staff: “This is the whole package. I’ve been really impressed with the way they’ve set the foundation for Razorback football moving forward. I think there are good things ahead of us as we move forward. I can honestly say I’ve never been around a football staff that embraces recruiting like this staff, nor a head coach that embraces recruiting. Bret, I will tell you from my viewpoint, he’s his own recruiting coordinator. He is on top of those recruits, where they’re from based on top of his assistants. They’ve got a great system put in place for recruiting. So I think there’s nothing but success in front of us. And I’m really pleased with the way they’ve come in and taken care of business.”
Long on the football practice facilities compared to others: "We’ve not gone the route of trying to create fireplaces and waterfalls and things like that in facilities. You can get on the internet and you can go check out some schools that have those things. But that’s not us. That’s not Arkansas. The program we want to have is focused on the young people. The young men and women in our program. So, yes, we’re going to build the biggest lockers because those lockers are important to those student-athletes as they get ready to practice and compete."
Long on losing LSU as a season-ending game: "I felt strongly that it’s one of the great rivalries we’ve been able to develop in the SEC since coming to the SEC. I felt very strongly about that. But, you know, it takes two to tango. LSU didn’t feel the same way. They wanted to go a different direction. So when I was selling it to the other 12 (athletic directors) and commissioner around the table, it’s a tough sell when one side of the equation doesn’t see it the same way. In the end, it didn’t go our way."
Long on any impact losing LSU makes on Arkansas: "We’re not a program that needs another team to make us a prominent program. We are a prominent program. We are the University of Arkansas. We are the Razorbacks. So we don’t need LSU at the end of the season to define who we are. We define who we are. We know who we are."
Long on the future of football games in Little Rock: "We have a contract through 2016. So we’re going to play through then and we’ll see. It’s a complicated, difficult question. But there will be many people besides myself involved in that decision. We’ll make it when the time is appropriate. But we’ve still got, what, 13, 14, 15 and 16 to play in little rock for sure.”
Long on the sensitivity of Little Rock talk: "I don’t feel sensitive about it. We love playing in Little Rock. The fans are great. ... We’re going to play in Little Rock. We love playing in little Rock. It is … You can’t deny that there is a financial piece to this and there is a travel piece to it. But those facts have been around for a long time.”
Long on plans to build a basketball practice facility: "I've never had a facility that I’ve gotten more resistance about in a fanbase than I have this basketball practice facility. And again, people are tired of hearing me say that we’re the last program in the SEC to get a basketball practice facility. But it’s the truth. And all we have to do is look at the success of our program and there are many reasons why our program is successful or not successful. We know that. But one of the pieces we’re missing is that basketball practice facility. And it goes back to what I talked about before. Efficiency. Yes, it’s going to be a recruiting piece. Yes, we get that. everybody leads with that. But the truth is, it’s back to the efficiency with our student-athletes. It allows the men’s and women’s programs to practice at the same time if they want."
Long on if the program's lack of success has caused resistance: "Maybe. That's a good point. They may want to see success before they — we all know in fundraising, people give far more to a winner than they do to a program that's trying to come up. The sales, the conversation with donors, they want to be associated with winning programs. And so, there are many reasons why our basketball program hasn't reached back to the heights we all want it to. But one of those I will tell you is a basketball practice facility. That doesn't take the place of a great head coach. That doesn't take the place of great recruiting. It doesn't take the place of a great university to attract them to in the first place. I'm very excited about what Mike Anderson's doing. He's going to build it. We're going to get this facility for him and when he does it's going to be a game-changer, just like the Fred W. Smith Center is for football."
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau