Photographs by Emma Pettit
Jeff Long speaks to reporters Monday after addressing the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
Originally published September 11, 2017 at 02:09p.m., updated September 11, 2017 at 02:33p.m.
Jeff Long, who was hired to helm University of Arkansas athletics 10 years ago, quelled rumors Monday that the slated Razorback game in Little Rock will be shipped to Fayetteville next year.
Long spoke to members of the Little Rock Touchdown Club in a ballroom of the Embassy Suites on Financial Centre Parkway. He mourned Texas Christian University's Saturday rout of the Hogs, saying, “There’s a little bit of a cloud hanging over us after a loss. There always is.”
But, he added, the team will shake off the cloud and keep “working and working and working.”
Speaking to an audience of fans, professionals, veterans and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Long joked that “many of you never thought I would last this long.” The university officially announced his hiring Sept. 11, 2007.
“It’s OK; it’s OK,” he said, greeted by laughter. “I’m comfortable with it.”
Long said he knows people have concerns about a possible contract buyout of the last slated game for War Memorial Stadium. He said he intends for the Razorbacks to play the scheduled 2018 game in Little Rock against an SEC opponent, as the deal calls for.
Within the next three to five months, Long said, he and the chancellor will make a recommendation to the university’s president and Board of Trustees on whether to host future games at the central Arkansas venue. Then, board members will decide what to do, he said.
Regardless of the decision, Long doesn’t want the fan base to fracture. “We need everybody pulling together,” he said.
Long also touted the success of the athletic department as a whole. Student-athletes earned a cumulative grade point average of 3.25 the previous year, he said, and the department is financially self-sustaining.
“I know that our success, for many of you, begins and ends with football. ... But I want you to know that we have a strong overall athletic program.”
He later fielded veiled and open questions about the tenure of football head coach Bret Bielema. When asked what expectations he has of a UA athletic program, Long responded: “Winning is the first one. It is with every sport we have, but it’s not the only thing.”
Long also told the audience a non-football-related tidbit. He and his wife, Fanny, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at the start of August by renewing their vows at Thorncrown Chapel near Eureka Springs. They drove out to church and held the ceremony, but then, Long said, his wife surprised him.
“She sang me a love song. And I did not know my wife could sing,” Long said. “She had taken lessons for an entire year.”
Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.