FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long spoke to the Arkansas News Bureau for a few minutes this afternoon about Arkansas' 2014 schedule.
He covered a variety of topics in the five-minute conversation. Subjects like losing LSU as a Thanksgiving weekend game, the Golden Boot, adding Missouri to the schedule, opening with Auburn and his request for more time before selecting the two Little Rock games for 2014.
Below is the full Q&A with Long:
Q: How much did you fight for LSU-Arkansas to remain a season-ending game?
A: “Look, I don’t want to dramatize it but I certainly made my feelings known strongly and in an appropriate manner within the conference. Both with (SEC) commissioner (Mike) Slive and my fellow ADs. So they knew where I stood clearly on it. But at the same time you understand that it is a conference of 14 and the SEC has a number of objectives they have to try to meet in that schedule and very disappointingly and unfortunately for us, a game that has developed into a rivalry at the end of the season won’t be there. But the rivalry will still be there. We’ll still play LSU. We’ll still Battle for the Boot. And you know, in some ways it may just make that rivalry more intense.”
Q: That was my next question. Is the Boot going anywhere because the game has moved?
A: "No, no. We'll still battle for the boot. Absolutely.”
Q: You've long been a proponent of playing Missouri as a rivalry game. What do you think about the Tigers sliding into Thanksgiving weekend slot?
A: “I think one of the things this schedule did that the SEC wanted to accomplish was get an end-of-the-season conference game or a non-conference traditional rivalry. What I mean by that, Florida-Florida State. And if we didn’t already have that established then we would get a conference game to end the season. And obviously, Missouri is a new member. They’re in our proximity. They’re the closest school. And certainly, I thought that was wise if we lost LSU to have Missouri move into that end-of-the-year spot. It will certainly help their program and I think it will help ours over time as we grow that rivalry.”
Q: The LSU game was always listed as a Saturday game, then picked up by CBS and moved to Friday later. Will that happen with Missouri in 2014?
A: "CBS will — as I understand it — still have a Friday game. It is our intent and hope that Arkansas will continue to fill that spot on Friday. But we don’t know that for sure. And CBS will have a selection. But that’s certainly our hope that we will be slotted for that Friday game.”
Q: Is it purely CBS's choice. Any SEC influence?
A: “I think it is CBS’s choice. Certainly, the conference makes suggestions to them. We’ve had that Friday slot with LSU all but two years, I think, since they’ve been doing it. We have, Arkansas, we have half of that traditional spot on Friday and we’re still there and available and we’re hoping CBS will view our participation in that Friday game the same way we do and select us.”
Q: The biggest surprise was opening the season with Auburn. Is that SEC Network driven?
A: “I think the reason for this is because of the SEC Network, generally. Certainly, with the SEC Network, they’re going to want conference games from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. So you see the Thursday night games to open the network, then you also see SEC matchups each week of the season. So I think it will be a regular occurence for a conference game in the first week or the second week, something like that. It won’t be every year we have a conference opponent to open. But certainly you’ll see conference games moved up to that first week of the season.”
Q: The Little Rock games weren't designated. There’s an intriguing situation with three ‘road’ games early on and the possibility of playing in Fayetteville only once in the first five weeks of the season. When and how will you make those selections?
A: “There’s number of things to look at and I will tell you that a couple of things are factoring into it for us right now. I have sent a note to Kevin Crass, the chairman of the War Memorial Stadium commission, asking them for a little bit more time to make that decision. We just recently got the final determination on the schedule. And with a new coach, coach Bielema hasn’t even played a game in War Memorial Stadium yet so I want to make sure he has that experience before he and I sit down to discuss the options and what the final selection is. I want to do that. So I’ve asked for a little bit more time. I’m hoping the War Memorial Stadium commission will grant that. I think they will.
"Then, you’re right. We have a number of things to factor in. The length of time we’re away from Fayetteville. Where are those home games? How many away games we have in a row. So, it’s a particular challenge this year the way this one falls out. But again, we’ll make a determination. There will be some great games in Little Rock as well.”
— Robbie Neiswanger • Arkansas News Bureau