State of the Hogs: Discreet

Jeff Long

The best way to blow the search for a football coach is to talk about it. Jeff Long understood that from the start.

I've always believed in the one-man search committee. It's only as good as the man doing it, but it has a better chance for success than a committee. For one, there is a shot at being discreet.

It's one of the reasons a coach might be in Long's hip pocket -- a ton of reports have hit over the last 24 hours that that's the case -- and still keep the name out of the media.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has managed that well over the last seven months as he's looked for his next football coach. There have been some rumors floating, but none that I believe. The best (or worst depending on your view) were last spring before John L. Smith was hired with a 10-month contract. Jon Gruden was said to be on the way one Sunday night. Not true, at least then.

What is true is that Long is viewed by the football world as a solid athletic director with the ability to provide coaches with what they need to win. Early on in Long's time at Arkansas, I asked a friend who is close to Dave Wannstedt what the former Pitt football coach thought about his former athletic director.

"He gave us everything we asked for and did it quickly," Wannstedt said. "If we viewed it important to winning, it was done. Whether it was technology, staff or practice equipment, we got it fast. We were never behind our competition."

You hear that from coaches across the board at Arkansas now. And don't think coaches at Arkansas don't talk to coaches everywhere else.

"We've got it all," a current football staffer told me this fall. "We don't get turned down. That's the way Jeff does it and he stays out of our way."

It was interesting to listen to Colby Hale, just off a successful first year as women's soccer coach at Arkansas. The Razorbacks earned two top 20 upsets and a run to the league tournament for the first time in 12 years -- and beat Texas. He said Long asked him soon after he arrived for an assessment of needs.

"There are probably some things we can do down the line, but we've got as good as anyone as far as facilities," Hale said. "We are better than almost everyone. It's really good."

Football is more important than soccer. When football does well, everyone does well. Hale will tell you that in short order. So what football gets and how fast, is more important.

So that out-of-this-world building for football operations that is going up between Walker Pavilion and Reynolds Razorback Stadium is an insurance policy for the entire athletic department. It's the best tool Long has as he fills the job of head football coach. It's proof that football gets what it needs -- and that everyone else will prosper, too.

It's the reason Long has a great chance to replace Bobby Petrino with a high quality coach, much like he did with Mike Anderson as basketball coach two years ago.

Long has a tough job over the next two weeks or so. He's got to keep that name out of the media while more games are played. He's got to keep it close to the vest, just as he has for the last few months so that nothing happens to his man in his current job. You want to avoid a possible huge raise for his man at his curent job or other pressure that would change things, or questions about the ability of his new boss to protect him in all ways.

I don't question that right now. If there is a break in this story, I don't think it will originate in Fayetteville. Long has done well in this unbelievably difficult job of searching for the ultimate prize, a home run football hire. It appears that he's just about to pull it off.

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