Arkansas fires ex-CFP committee chair Jeff Long after 10 years as AD

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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long listens to a question during a news conference where he announced that Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino had been terminated, in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas has announced the firing of athletic director Jeff Long, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, after nearly 10 years at the school. | April L. Brown/Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas fired athletic director Jeff Long on Wednesday, ending a nearly decade-long tenure that included the scandalous ouster of football coach Bobby Petrino and the continued mediocrity of the program under Bret Bielema.

The College Football Playoff selection committee member, formerly the chairman until this season, was under contract through June 2022.

“Since coming to Fayetteville in 2008, Jeff has led our department with character and integrity and helped move us forward in so many ways,” Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said. “However, over the past year, Jeff has lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters and members of the university leadership, support that I believe is critical in our pursuit of excellence.”

The firing comes at a time of turmoil for the football program, which is 29-32 in five seasons under Bielema, including a mark of 11-27 in the Southeastern Conference. The Razorbacks (4-6) will fail to win at least nine games this season for the sixth straight year, the school’s longest stretch since an eight year stretch that coincided with joining the SEC in 1992.

Long was in Little Rock last week for a meeting of the school’s Board of Trustees, but he never met with the board during an executive session. Instead, Steinmetz was called into the session while Long waited outside.

Several issues were thought to be a part of the discussion, including the performance of Long and the football program, along with the fate of Arkansas’ long tradition of playing an annual football game in Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. The school currently has one year left on an agreement to play one game annually away from the Arkansas campus in Little Rock. I

It’s an agreement that has caused much friction between the school’s northwest Arkansas constituency and the rest of the state since Razorback Stadium was expanded in 2000, and Long said in September that he hoped to have a resolution about the future of games in central Arkansas by the end of this season.

Long was hired away from Pittsburgh by Arkansas, and he replaced former longtime athletic director Frank Broyles at the beginning of 2008. He came into prominence nationally for his handling of Petrino’s departure in the spring of 2012.

Petrino, now at Louisville, was fired after a motorcycle accident during which it was later discovered he was riding with his mistress. That led to revelations that he had hired the woman to a position in the athletic department, and that he had given her $20,000 to buy a new car. Long hired John L. Smith as the interim football coach for the 2012 season and the Razorbacks went 3-9.

Long was praised after that season for his hiring of Bielema away from Wisconsin. The Razorbacks were coming off a scandal-ridden eight months at the time, and Bielema was hired to restore the program to the level it had reached under Petrino, when it went a combined 21-5 over the 2010-11 seasons.

Bielema had led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowl appearances when he was hired, and he brought with him instant credibility. However, after improving Arkansas’ win total in his second and third seasons, the Razorbacks have struggled mightily since the end of last season — losing eight of their last 12 games.

Following the Petrino firing, Long agreed to a new contract in 2013 that raised his annual salary to $1.1 annually by the following summer. The agreement included a public acknowledgment about Long’s pursuit of another job — believed to be Texas. He also was reported to have been a candidate for the Stanford job in 2012.

Long also was responsible for the hiring of basketball coach Mike Anderson away from Missouri in 2011, and he also spearheaded the current $160 million renovation of Razorback Stadium, along with numerous other building projects on the Arkansas campus.

Senior associate athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples was appointed interim director of athletics pending a search for a new hire.

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