Without a doubt the most sought after and most discussing head coaching position on the market right now is at Arkansas. On Monday the man that holds that vacancy in his hands, Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long, met with the media after speaking to the Little Rock Touchdown Club.
– Perhaps the most interesting detail Long touched on was the scale of changes that had to be made in transitioning from Bobby Petrino to John L. Smith. He said: “Behind the scenes there were a lot of adjustments that had to be made. Not only the head football coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, changes in defensive coaches — defensive line, linebackers, the corners, the safeties.”
– Long said he wants his new coach in place by early December. Truthfully, only Jeff Long and a handful of others have a true idea of where Arkansas is leading right now.
– Arkansas’ season ends in Week 12 of the NFL season. That leaves a quarter of the NFL schedule, plus the entire playoff slate. This likely eliminates any NFL coordinators from good teams from being available to take the job.
– Waiting until December to announce the new hire tells us that Long definitely wants to have conversations with active coaches. Long made no indication he was leaning exclusively toward hiring a coach that is currently out of the game and thus would be available to come in and get a head start on evaluating the current roster and coaching staff.
– We aniticipate that whoever the new head coach is will want to take a long look at Arkansas’ current coaching staff. Bobby Petrino left behind a talented group of coaches.
– Long gave no indication he ever considered replacing Smith after the Texas A&M game.
– Long knew of the possibility that Smith would declare bankruptcy when he hired the coach in April.
– According to Long, not only did he not know the depth of Smith’s financial trouble but John L. Smith himself didn’t know how much debt he was in. Long said, “I don’t think Coach Smith knew the depth of it. . . . Certainly that’s not a world I play in, but when you’re in that investment world we’ve all seen people have gotten in over their head with financial decisions and the number ends up being the number. I’m not shirking responsibility, but I didn’t know the depth. And I don’t think Coach Smith did either until it got very close to the team when he made the decision and his financial advisors made the decision to declare bankruptcy.”
– Long thinks he has a much better job to sell than he did in 2007. Long explained, “We’ve improved our facilities. The football center will be one of the best, if not the best, in the country. Certainly the centralized location of all of our operations, there will be very few that have that. So we’re going to be, obviously have that. But I think what we’ve done too, more important, we’ve built the infrastructure behind the coach. What he needs to be successful. Academic support. Certainly with the changes in NCAA rules, continuing eligibility, the graduation APR. You have to have that infrastructure. Coaches are looking for that.”
– He hasn’t limited the search to just offensive coaches. In fact, Long said that he will consider coaches with offensive and defensive backgrounds and will also look at assistant coaches around the country. He did not, however, explicity state that current Arkansas assistants will be considered for the head coaching job.
– Long said he wasn’t prepared for the scrutiny of his coaching search in 2007. “It’s one of those things you think you know about here in Arkansas, but until you live it you realize, … we have a passionate fan base. We have an interested media that want to know. Certainly understand why they want to know.”
Read the full Q & A here.