Long: We're not where we want to be
Posted: September 26, 2012 at 1:50 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2012 at 2:23 p.m.
FAYETTEVILLE University of Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said Wednesday he is "steadfastly" committed to the Razorbacks' football coaching staff through the end of the 2012 season.
Speaking to the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club, Long said he was disappointed with Arkansas' 1-3 start to the season. Long reaffirmed to the crowd of about 250 people he would honor John L. Smith's 10-month contract with the university he signed following Bobby Petrino's firing for misconduct in April.
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"Back in April, you know that this is going to be a difficult situation regardless of whether we’re successful or not successful," Long said. "It’s different when you have, you know, a coach who’s not your long-term coach. And, you know, you have to manage a season differently because of that and we’ve tried to do that. Certainly, I engage our coaches as much as I can to make sure they understand that we’re supporting them and engage the student-athletes that we’re going to have a program going forward. We’re going to be here and we’re going to support them.
"We’re not where we want to be. We’re not where we thought we would be. That goes without question."
Despite the start to the season, Long said he remained confident Arkansas would be able to attract top head coaching candidates for the opening at the end of the season. He added he hopes to make a hire shortly following the conclusion of the Razorbacks' season, but didn't provide a specific timeline.
Long said he has a revolving list of potential head coaches that changes from "week to week", but wouldn't identify them publicly so as not to jeopardize their current jobs. He said there is a broad list of qualities for the desired coach and wouldn't exclude current head college coaches, former head coaches, coordinators or coaches with past NFL experience.
Asked if he had any direct contact with candidates or their representatives, Long said not recently, but did acknowledge contact with some in April.
"I'm not being coy, but I don't recall recently anybody reaching out and making that be known," Long said when asked if current head coaches have expressed interest in the position. "I think those coaches also understand we're playing a football season and they're playing a football season, and there will be plenty of time at the end of the season to talk about that.
"I think we’ve raised our national reputation over the last five years. I think we’ve shown that you can do it at Arkansas - you can win, you can make the BCS, we can be in contention to win a national championship. And again, it’s a factor of being in the toughest division in the toughest conference. It’s about being a competitor. If you want to compete, this is the place to come compete, no question."
The athletics director's remarks were his first publicly since the start of Arkansas' rocky season. The Razorbacks are 1-3 after losing three straight home games to Louisiana-Monroe, Alabama and Rutgers.
Arkansas will travel to Texas A&M (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) for an 11:21 a.m. game on Saturday.