SEC Country reporter Eric W. Bolin will candidly answer your Arkansas Razorbacks sports queries each weekday in our Mailbag Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryHogs or by email to Eric at email@example.com.
Arkansas Question of the Day: Wednesday, Nov. 8
Oh, Jeff Long is very much around. As a matter of fact, the Arkansas athletic director was on the Razorbacks pregame show Saturday before the matchup with Coastal Carolina. He was pumped about Razorbacks soccer making the SEC Championship Game.
Clearly, that paragraph is written in jest. But it’s not untrue. Although, since this question was posed, Long resurfaced on social media by retweeting a few of the accounts under his purview. We’re nearing an entire month since Long has tweeted something original himself. Oct. 13 was the last time — the day before the Alabama game.
Mum’s the word with Long and Arkansas football.
The policy of Long and the athletic department is to not comment about potential coaching changes. Understandable. That’s the policy at lots of places. That, however, doesn’t seem to be the fans’ problem with things.
The problem, as our reader suggests, is that Long isn’t saying anything about football.
To address your question, here is what I suspect is happening: There are two things that have equal merit and reason.
Long is not a fan of difficult questions. He has shown that in the past. I don’t mean for that to sound unfair to him, because who does like difficult questions? No one wants to answer a fan who asks, “Why do we suck?” or a reporter who asks … well, anything, apparently, given the arrogant response Kurt Voigt of the Associated Press received when he sought a comment last month.
Long has public relations specialists in his employ for a reason. Kevin Trainor and Chris Freet handle the lion’s share of the talking points, whether publicly or privately. Not uncommon. Athletic directors and coaches everywhere have such lieutenants. But perception is reality, right? The perception is that Long is hiding, therefore, Long is hiding.
The second part is, honestly, the man has to be busy. I’m of the opinion his job isn’t completely safe. I’m of the opinion Long was likely told, on or off the record, it’s either him or Bret Bielema come November. It’s hard to imagine Long is going to walk away with no immediate job prospects. Accordingly, it’s likely Bielema will be out of luck come late fall.
If that’s the case and Long has come to that decision, he’s putting out feelers to gauge interest among potential Bielema replacements. With the new early signing day in December, the Razorbacks need a coach by Dec. 20 to maximize that day. That gives Long a little more than three weeks from the end of the regular season to remove Bielema and hire his replacement.
Best to do that legwork now.
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