Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long met with a number of rabid Razorback fans at the Little Rock Touchdown Club yesterday. Naturally, the state of his coaching search was a hot topic.
Asked what “phase” his coaching search is in, Long said: “Just research at this point.” Just a few weeks ago he told another booster group that he’s had no contact with coaches or their representatives. Here’s hoping he’s lying his rear end off, ’cause if he’s spent the time from April til October simply looking at resumes, he’s wasted a lot of valuable time. (For that reason, we suspect he is lying his rear end off and has talked to representatives for coaches and perhaps a few out of work ones like Butch Davis and Jon Gruden one-on-one.)
But, if you believe Long, he sees no need to rush:
“We’ve still got six to seven weeks of the season left. In our world, unlike the business world, you don’t just pick out a candidate and go get him. We have some unwritten protocols that you try to follow. They’re getting, to be honest with you, blurrier in our profession — what is appropriate and what isn’t. But I’m going to try to walk that line and not try to invade or intrude upon a coach coaching a season. That is important to me to do it the right way. Certainly there are a number of third parties out there trying to get information to us about those who might be interested and might not be. But we’ve got to walk a fine line there. It’s really just research at this point.”
What fine line? John L. Smith is an interim coach and everyone knows he’s done at season’s end, even though Long won’t admit that publicly. The AD wouldn’t be going behind his back to speak with reps for candidates. And speaking with third-parties (meaning “agents”) shouldn’t be an issue, either. Who do you think Long talked to first during his most recent basketball search — coach Mike Anderson, Missouri AD Mike Alden, or Anderson’s agent/representative? I’ll take #3 for $500, Alex.
Still, Long wouldn’t bit when asked if having a nine-month search is better than having, say, a three-week search:
“I’m not sure there is an advantage. In the end it becomes who is interested in us. Even though I have had quite a long time to look at and research coaches I don’t know who is truly interested in us. We won’t know that really until almost the end game because we’ve all seen other searches within this conference and out where they’ve ended up with their second and third choice so to speak. So it’s hard to know who’s really interested in your program. Again, we have lots to offer. We will get a quality coach to lead our program, but at this point it’s, I’m not sure I have an advantage this much, this far in advance.”
And again we call poppycock. If Arkansas’ athletic director has played his cards right he should have a very good idea of who’ll be interested in chatting at year’s end. There was an advantage to be gained and if it turns out he didn’t make use of that advantage, well, that’s on Long and Long alone.
During his talk, he also made a few other things clear:
* Arkansas has a better story to sell in 2012 than it did in 2007 when Long hired Bobby Petrino.
* He has no intention of hiring a coach simply because he’s viewed as being either an offense-first or defense-first guy.
* All options are on the table. “Well, I will tell you that certainly top assistants are not out of the question.”
* He also correctly downplayed a recent comment from radio man Paul Finebaum that this hire will be the most important decision in Arkansas history. “Well, that’s radio sportstalk drama… Of course it’s big. But it’s not, it doesn’t need to be dramatized any more than that… Obviously Coach (Frank) Broyles hired a number of (football coaches) through his career (as Arkansas AD). You know what, they’re big searches at the time.”
Finally, when asked about when a decision/announcement might come, Long said: “I’m hopeful that we will have a decision made within a couple weeks after the end of the regular season.”
So come mid-December we’ll have a better idea of who Long was talking to and when he started chatting with them.