SEC: Jeff Long

SEC morning links

September, 11, 2014
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Remember the "pop pass" from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates in last year's Iron Bowl that tied the game with 32 seconds left? Auburn fans (and Alabama fans) sure do. Anybody who watched that game and also saw last week's NFL opener, a 36-16 win for Seattle over Green Bay, saw a strikingly familiar play when Russell Wilson hit Ricardo Lockette for a 33-yard touchdown. Turns out Pete Carroll copied that play from Gus Malzahn (something Carroll noted afterward). Asked about it on Wednesday, Malzahn called it "pretty neat" to see at the NFL level. I'm a fan of seeing the game evolve and seeing the college game influence the pro game and as more coaches who are successful in college make their way into the NFL, I think it's fascinating to see certain concepts pop up at the highest level, like this particular one did. And kudos to Carroll, who noted, "We'll go anywhere to find a play."

As you might have seen in Wednesday's morning links, Kentucky running back Jojo Kemp stirred the pot a little before the Wildcats clash with Florida. When asked about some of the familiar Gators (Kemp is a Florida native and has high school teammates on the Gators' roster) he punctuated his commentary with "It's going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces." When asked about it on Wednesday, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said he was "furious" and "outraged" by Kemp's comment. Florida players responded swiftly and it wasn't long before Kemp's image and words were posted in the Gators' locker room. My take: It's all in good fun. We're talking about football, not life and death, and there's nothing wrong with a little trash talk going both ways. It makes the middle of the week fun and interesting and gives us something to talk about after the fact. The game will be won or lost on the field on Saturday, not with words on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Georgia-South Carolina is the game that will garner the most attention this week and rightfully so. It will likely prove to be a factor in the SEC East race down the road and it pits two of the league's -- and the country's -- best running backs, Georgia's Todd Gurley and South Carolina's Mike Davis. The two are actually friendly -- Gurley came to Columbia a few times to hang out with Davis and other friends -- but this trip will be all business for Gurley and the Dawgs. Davis admitted that comparisons to other elite backs is something he thinks about constantly and no doubt the Gamecocks will be looking for a good day from him in hopes of pulling out a victory. Gurley in the meantime, looks to add to his case for the Heisman Trophy after getting a bang-up start on the campaign in Georgia's season-opening win over Clemson.

Around the SEC
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SEC lunchtime links

January, 27, 2014
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Happy Monday to you all. Hope everyone had a great weekend. Let's take a look at some of the interesting stories from around the league in today's edition of the lunch links:

SEC lunchtime links

October, 17, 2013
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The government shutdown is over. Now we can get back to the business of helping government workers on their lunch hours.

Arkansas AD to lead committee

October, 14, 2013
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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long will have the distinction of being the first chairman of the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Sources said the 13-person panel charged with selecting the four teams that will go on to the playoff following the 2014 regular season will be announced in a Wednesday news conference.

ESPN and The Associated Press have identified the other members of the committee as:
  • Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez
  • Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the former Air Force Academy superintendent
  • USC athletic director Pat Haden
  • Former NCAA executive vice president Tom Jernstedt
  • West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck
  • Former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning
  • Former Nebraska athletic director/coach Tom Osborne
  • Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese
  • Former USA Today reporter Steve Wieberg
  • Former Stanford/Notre Dame/Washington coach Tyrone Willingham

Lunchtime links

July, 31, 2013
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Yes, your eyes weren't lying last night. I was on the Hug Cam at last night's Braves game against the Colorado Rockies.

SEC lunch links

June, 10, 2013
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Our Monday stroll around the SEC:

Lunchtime links

June, 3, 2013
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I seriously can't believe it's June already. Time flies when you're having fun, right?
Before Pat Summerall became a legendary NFL broadcaster, he was a Jack of all trades for Arkansas' football team.

Summerall, who died Tuesday at the age of 82 of cardiac arrest, played for the Razorbacks from 1949-1951. He arrived in Fayetteville on a basketball scholarship, but during his three seasons on the football team, Summerall played defensive end, tight end and kicker. His game-winning field goal against No. 4 Texas in 1951 still remains one of the most memorable plays in Razorback football history. The kick gave Arkansas a 16-14 win, its first against Texas in Fayetteville.

In 1951, Summerall was also named a captain of Arkansas' football team and was an All-American.

In 2012, Summerall became the 19th Arkansas player to receive the SEC Legends Award. He's also a member of the Arkansas All-Century Team (selected in 1994) as a kicker, and was named to the 1940s All-Decade team as a defensive end. Summerall is also a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

“We are all deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Pat Summerall,” Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said in a statement. “As one of the most recognizable graduates of the University of Arkansas, Pat was an ambassador for the Razorback program, our university and the entire state throughout his distinguished career.

“After an extraordinary collegiate and professional football career, he went on to become one of the country's legendary sports broadcasters for more than four decades, lending his signature voice to some of the most memorable moments in sports history. He was a proud Razorback and he will be greatly missed by his Razorback Family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cheri and the entire Summerall Family.”
The head football coaches in the SEC are some of the highest paid in the country.

Eight of the 14 head coaches in the league make $3 million or more per year.

The athletic directors in the SEC aren't exactly going poor, but many of the other athletic directors at traditional football powerhouse schools are making more than their SEC colleagues.

USA Today did a study Wednesday of athletic director salaries at the 124 FBS schools. According to the study, Vanderbilt's David Williams was far and away No. 1 on the list at $3,239,678. As is pointed out in USA Today's piece, Williams wore several different hats at Vanderbilt during the period covered by the university's most recent available federal tax return. He was vice chancellor for university affairs and athletics, general counsel and university secretary for Vanderbilt and its medical center as well as a tenured law professor. As of July 2012, Williams' title changed to vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director. He no longer had the roles of general counsel and university secretary, but remains a tenured law professor.

After Williams, Florida's Jeremy Foley is the highest-paid athletic director in the SEC at $1,233,250. He's the only other athletic director in the league who makes $1 million or more in salary.

However, according to USA Today's study, Louisville's Tom Jurich ($1,411,915), Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez ($1,230,000), Nebraska's Shawn Eichorst ($1,123,000), Texas' DeLoss Dodds ($1,109,041), Ohio State's Gene Smith ($1,099,030), Notre Dame's Jack Swarbrick ($1,026,942) and Oklahoma's Joe Castiglione ($1 million) are all at $1 million or more. Michigan's Dave Brandon makes $900,000.

The Big Ten obviously values its athletic directors.

Below is a list of what the SEC athletic directors are making, according to USA Today's figures:
  • David Williams, Vanderbilt: $3,239,678
  • Jeremy Foley, Florida: $1,233,250
  • Jeff Long, Arkansas: $903,900
  • Dave Hart, Tennessee: $817,250
  • Eric Hyman, Texas A&M: $800,000
  • Joe Alleva, LSU: $725,000
  • Ray Tanner, South Carolina: $675,000
  • Mike Alden, Missouri: $674,317
  • Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky: $654,000
  • Jay Jacobs, Auburn: $615,000
  • Mal Moore, Alabama: $600,500
  • Greg McGarity, Georgia: $525,000
  • Scott Stricklin, Miss. State: $450,000
  • Ross Bjork, Ole Miss: $400,000

Missouri's Mike Alden ($347,915), Alabama's Mal Moore ($255,000) and Kentucky's Mitch Barnhart ($240,000) have the largest maximum bonuses in their contracts.

Lunchtime links

December, 11, 2012
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Back from New York and I came very close to successfully re-enacting the movie "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."

Another Christmas in the trenches.

Q&A: Arkansas coach Bret Bielema

December, 6, 2012
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Arkansas pulled a shocker when it hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin to be its new head coach.

He was officially introduced to the Arkansas faithful on Wednesday and just after his introductory news conference (featuring an awkward "Call the Hogs" for Bielema), he took a few minutes to talk with ESPN.com about his new job and leaving a place he'd been so successful at:

Now that you've had a little time to process this whole thing, has it really hit you that you're now the head coach at Arkansas?

Bret Bielema: Bits and pieces. It's still a little overwhelming with all the things that are on the agenda, on the radar with recruiting and staffing and getting the feel for a new place. My wife can handle all the little things and details on living and all that jazz. I'm just kind of full speed ahead, put your nose down and go to work.

With as much success as you had at Wisconsin, why the SEC, why Arkansas and why now?

BB: Arkansas is very intriguing to me because it is the only show in the state. Obviously, without a professional team and to have the only Division I football team playing at the level that it's at, it kind of draws unified support throughout the whole state. When you've got that, it's something special. Obviously, there are a lot of good schools across the country, but there aren't very many of them that have the one show. The second thing is, at the age of 42 I felt I was at a point in my life where I'd had some success, obviously with the three straight Big Ten championships, but I wanted to see if there were some bigger things out there for my coaching career. It's something I could really see myself building a future around and a family around.

How did all this even start and did it catch you off guard when Arkansas reached out to you?

BB: It did a little bit. Obviously, I went about my season and the things that it brought. As a head coach, you're obviously aware of different opportunities that are out there and you don't know if people are going to have an interest. Then, when our game was done (the Big Ten championship game) -- I didn't even check my phone until the following day on Sunday -- received a phone call from Arkansas, set up a time to meet with them on Monday night. I was going to be in New York City for the Hall of Fame inductions, as it was. I got a chance to visit Monday and Tuesday, and Tuesday afternoon we were flying to Madison to pick up my wife and flying to Fayetteville to have this press conference today.

[+] EnlargeBret Bielema
AP Photo/April L. BrownFrom left, new Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, his wife Jen and athletic director Jeff Long "call the hogs" during a news conference on Thursday.
What was your wife's response when you said that Arkansas was calling?

BB: You know, my wife is a south Florida girl. She was born and raised in Tampa so she's traditionally lived in the South. I think she's just as excited as I am to try a new part of the country and a new opportunity to start together and a new life together with a whole different set of surroundings with a lot of good people. Maybe we'll have a chance to win a few ball games.

I know you said you have some family ties to Arkansas in your news conference, but what was your knowledge of the program before you got that phone call?

BB: Well, to come full circle, we actually played Arkansas in my first tenure as a head coach. We were an 11-1 team before we played them and we beat them in the Capital One Bowl. I had a tremendous amount of respect for them from that point forward and you'd have to be living in a cave not to know all the things they've gone through last year. I respected the way that [athletic director] Jeff [Long] stood up there in front of a group of people and talked to them very passionately and it was very, very clear to me. To have the season unfold the way it did; I know people weren't happy with it, but we're not behind us, we're only looking forward.

While you were at Wisconsin, did you get to the point where you're thinking that it was going to get harder to win a national championship there and in the Big Ten?

BB: When the playoff system came to truth for 2014 where we're changing the rules, it became very, very evident to me and it couldn't be more clear. The SEC had a road to that game, as it should. They play very, very good football and I want to be able to get into a race and see where it goes.

When it came to recruiting, you had some pretty controversial words about the SEC earlier this year. Looking back on it, is it kind of funny to see yourself now having to compete even more with the SEC in recruiting and having to adapt to it?

BB: I don't know if it's funny. It was out of respect and I was the head coach at the University of Wisconsin and in the Big Ten Conference. Someone posed a question and I answered it. I don't know what the exact context of it was, but it definitely wasn't a slam on the SEC. It wasn't anything more than me being a head coach at a Big Ten university and someone posed a question that obviously made me respond that way. But it's very important for me to understand [how tough recruiting in the SEC is] and no one is a bigger fan of the SEC than myself.

Recruiting in the SEC is a different animal, as you know, so how ready and how excited are you to get into the middle of it?

BB: I couldn't be more excited to know that we're going to have a chance to get everybody on board as a staff and then we'll get our players on board and bring in some new recruits and it's going to be an exciting couple of years. I can't wait to get running.

When you're at a place like Arkansas, how important is it for you to hit the southeast and hit Texas? I feel like it has to be more of a challenge there and how to be more of an emphasis for you now.

BB: One hundred percent, especially this year's recruiting class. We're going to work ourselves through with the staffing and all that goes into that, but it's very, very important for us to establish a class right now. It's been said to me on several occasions that the classes that we have here are strong, but they're just a little bit low on numbers. We have to supplement it through high school recruiting and junior college recruiting. It's very, very important.

I know it's still early, but have you talked to anyone at Wisconsin about coming with you and are you considering any of Arkansas' current staff members?

BB: Absolutely, I have tried to meet with the staff (Wednesday), but a couple of coaches were on the road. We're meeting early (Thursday) morning and we'll have a chance to sit down and visit with the entire staff and then visit with them individually and see exactly where they are right now and what they need to know and give us a chance to decide if we are going to move together or go through a second interview or go in different directions. As far as Wisconsin, I haven't hired anybody at all.

Your style is a little different than what Arkansas has been doing. It can be hard to make a smooth transition in your first year, so what would you like to accomplish in your first year?

BB: Offensively, we're going to get a staff in here that believes in a certain methodology,whether it's fast-paced or slow-paced; two backs, one back; two wide receivers, four wide receivers. We're going to buy in, we're going to execute, we're going to coach it and we're going to find out what our players can do at a championship level and we're going to go out and perform every Saturday and try to get better each week. [On defense] it's important that we find the right players to play the right positions. We have to be strong personnel-wise and be able to execute the Xs and Os. The big thing is for everyone to get on the same page and execute the same plan.

You obviously ran the ball very well at Wisconsin, and running is the bread and butter of the SEC. How important is it to have that sort of SEC-style run attack back at Arkansas?

BB: It's very important to me that I let our people know that we're going to run the football. We've also been very good at the quarterback position and the wide receiver position. We have more players in the NFL at the tight end position than anyone else in the NFL. We've been good on offense. We've had more offensive linemen selected in the first round than anybody in the world. It's going to be a fun time to get the ball rolling in many different directions.

Everyone wants to win championships, but you talked about in your news conference wanting to do something different at Arkansas, like you did at Wisconsin. How important is it to you to take Arkansas to the next level?

BB: It's important to build this with a strong foundation. You can't skip a step and assume you're going to get to where you want to be. You want to build it in a way that you can sustain it and hold it while you're there. It's priorities. You don't have much time to sleep. My three biggest priorities are meet with the seniors, get to know them, get to know the current staff and make decisions there, and the third thing is to be involved in recruiting of next year's class -- a class that's going to come in and change the faces of what we do for years to come.

Hogs get a proven winner in Bielema

December, 4, 2012
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Anytime a head-coaching job opens in the SEC, the athletic director at that school stands at the podium and promises his fans with conviction that he’s going to go out and hire a proven winner.

Sometimes that’s a difficult promise to keep, especially when three other schools in your league are coach-shopping at the same time.

But say this for Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long: He delivered on bringing a guy to the Ozarks whose record needs no deciphering.

Bret Bielema was 68-24 (.739) in seven seasons as Wisconsin’s head coach, the ninth-highest winning percentage among active coaches in the NCAA with at least five years of experience. He guided the Badgers to their third consecutive Big Ten championship this season, and they became the first team to represent the Big Ten in three straight Rose Bowls since Michigan in 1976-78.

Over the past four years, Wisconsin has won 40 games, which is tied for the most of any four-year stretch in school history.

Long wanted a proven winner, and he got one.

But winning in the Big Ten and winning in the SEC are two different worlds. That’s not a slight against Bielema. It’s just the way it is.

The fact that Bielema would leave Wisconsin was stunning to a lot of people there. Clearly, though, he’s not afraid of a challenge.

He’ll get a daunting one at Arkansas, which plays in the toughest division (SEC West) in all of college football and doesn’t have the luxury of producing the kind of homegrown talent most of the SEC states do.

Moreover, going into the state of Texas and getting players will be harder than ever with Texas A&M making the kind of splash it did in its first season in the SEC.

The biggest question Bielema will have to answer is whether or not he can recruit at a high level in the SEC. He’s smart enough that he’ll hire guys who know the Hogs' key recruiting territories, but the head coach has to be a good closer in this league.

As successful as Bielema has been at Wisconsin, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether he can score big on the recruiting trail.

But when it comes to coaching and developing hard-nosed football teams committed to running the ball and playing sound defense, Bielema has cornered the market on that brand of football in the Big Ten.

It just so happens to be the same brand that wins championships in the SEC.

Bobby Petrino got the Hogs within striking distance of a championship and took them to a BCS bowl before it all came crashing down with that ill-fated motorcycle ride last April.

Bielema will take his shot at finishing what Petrino started.
Arkansas' coaching search took a very interesting twist Tuesday.

According to a report by The New Orleans Times-Picayune, Arkansas has offered LSU coach Les Miles a deal to become the Razorbacks' next head coach. The newspaper reported that Arkansas offered five years, $27.5 million.

"They made a serious offer," a source told the newspaper. "(Athletic director) Joe (Alleva) is meeting with (Miles') agent and the discussion is ongoing."

Miles' agent, George Bass, dismissed the report, telling the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "There's nothing like that going on."

Miles is meeting with members of the media Wednesday, and sources told ESPN.com that he isn't expected to take Arkansas' offer.

It's a surprising move by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long. With interim coach John L. Smith out, Arkansas is looking to find a new coach by mid-December. Miles was certainly not one of the people picked to be on Long's list. But few surprises remain in college football these days.

While the Razorbacks won't get Miles, this shows just how much the program is willing to spend on its next had coach. That has to be very attractive to prospective candidates.
Nick Saban was only trying to be nice when he praised former assistant Derek Dooley Saturday night.

Speaking with the media following Alabama’s 44-13 thumping of Dooley’s helpless Tennessee team, he said that Dooley’s team “really played hard” and that Dooley was “doing a fantastic job” at Tennessee.

Saban wasn’t being disingenuous, but to those who have been around this sport long enough, a statement like that about a coach whose team dropped to 3-4 on the season and hasn’t won an SEC game since mid-November of the previous year doesn’t really help much. It almost magnifies the unfortunate situation surrounding Dooley and his Vols.

[+] EnlargeDooley
Jim Brown/US PresswireDerek Dooley, who is 0-14 against ranked opponents at Tennessee, is one of several SEC coaches whose job security is in question.
And when Tennessee’s season concludes on Nov. 24, athletic director Dave Hart will have a tough decision on his hands. With the rate at which this season is going for the Vols, they’ll be lucky to get to seven wins by season’s end, which might not be enough to keep Dooley in Knoxville.

But Hart isn’t the only AD with a tough decision on his hands. Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart will have to seriously reevaluate things with coach Joker Phillips and Auburn’s Jay Jacobs will certainly be playing the thinking game when it comes to Gene Chizik.

Phillips and Chizik have combined to win just two games this season and sport teams that are floundering around the bottom of the SEC in most offensive and defensive categories. Chizik might have won the national championship in 2010, but with Auburn off to its worst start since 1952, frustration is mounting on the Plains, as this team simply isn’t any better than last year’s younger 8-5 squad.

Even with brand new coordinators, the only thing that separates Auburn from an 0-7 start is an overtime field goal against Louisiana-Monroe. Since Cam Newton stepped off Auburn’s campus, Chizik has gone 9-11, including 4-9 in SEC play.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, things don’t appear to be getting any better with No. 20 Texas A&M, No. 10 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama still on the schedule. Auburn might not have another SEC win in its body.

This is Chizik’s only losing season at Auburn and with a current buyout of $7.5 million, it could be very difficult for Jacobs to part with Chizik. Coordinators Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder would also be owed an additional $1.35 million if Chizik were fired.

It would be a hefty firing price tag, but as Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News recently wrote, Chizik’s buyout isn’t as steep when you consider that Auburn could pay him in monthly increments.

After making it to five straight bowls, Kentucky won’t go bowling for consecutive years under Phillips. He enters Saturday’s game against Missouri with a 12-21 record since he was hired in 2010. Injuries have ravaged this team the past two years, but recruiting efforts haven’t exactly given the Wildcats quality depth.

Phillips hasn’t made excuses, but he also hasn’t won a lot and Vanderbilt’s recent success under James Franklin isn’t helping. The former SEC cellar dwellers have found new life under their new coach, and maybe Barnhart feels his program can do the same with change.

Injuries and youth might not save Phillips.

Dooley’s situation is more complicated after he walked into a terrible situation at Tennessee. He’s dealt with NCAA issues from the previous staff and crippling attrition. But with his most talented team in Knoxville, the Vols are in danger of missing out on a bowl game in back-to-back years for the first time since the late 1970s.

Dooley is 0-14 against ranked opponents and has just four SEC wins. The writing was literally on the Rock last week when someone called for Dooley’s job by painting his or her frustration with Dooley on the legendary rock that sits on Tennessee’s campus.

With financial issues at Tennessee -- and the school still paying former coaches Phillip Fulmer and Bruce Pearl -- Dooley’s $5 million buyout could be too expensive. Still, there might not be a price tag on losing for Hart.

And to think, Arkansas was the only sure job we knew would come up. Dooley and Phillips entered the year on the hot seat, but they could have won their way off. John L. Smith’s 10-month contract basically said it all.

Arkansas AD Jeff Long’s thorough coaching search better start fast because he might have some competition on his hands when it comes to luring a big-name coach away from other SEC schools in December.

Long: New coach wanted by December

October, 16, 2012
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Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long wants to hire a new coach for the Razorbacks shortly after the season ends in late November.

While speaking to the Touchdown Club in Little Rock, Ark., Long told Razorbacks fans that he wouldn't discuss coaching candidates, but didn't rule out considering current interim coach John L. Smith for the job. It's clear the coaching search is up and running and Long wants to move very quickly once the regular season is finished.

[+] EnlargeJohn L. Smith
AP Photo/Pat SullivanArkansas seeks a coach who will fix the Razorbacks' woes. Is John L. Smith the long-term solution?
Sure, the Razorbacks have won back-to-back games and have new life, but chances are Smith is way down on Long's list. This team stumbled into the month of October with a 1-4 record and a defense that was gutted by just about everyone it faced. The team looked like it had checked out and its leader, quarterback Tyler Wilson, had criticzied his team for quitting against Alabama -- a game in which Wilson didn't play in because of a head injury.

This team looked lost and Smith was the guy in charge, so bringing him back is quite the long shot.

But he must be complimented for helping to get this team back together. The Razorbacks could have just shut it down and let the season play out. They didn't and ran over Auburn. They came to play and obliterated Kentucky before a rainstorm cut the game short. The offense is clicking again and this team has shown tremendous heart and character the last two weeks.

"I think we've seen in the last couple weeks a program that's starting to get better," Long said.

It is, and big-time coaches will see that. This is still a very attractive job to coaches, and don't forget that Long has a boatload of money to toss at a big-name coach's way.

Long is also looking for someone who has "discipline and accountability" and with "honesty and integrity on and off the field." Meaning: he doesn't want someone with the baggage, like former coach Bobby Petrino who was fired in April after his affair/motorcycle incident that began the destruction of Arkansas' 2012 season.

So those Razorbacks fans clamoring for Petrino to come back, don't hold your breathe. It's not worth it and it isn't happening. Long is above that, and he's ready to take this program in a better direction.

Long is looking for a winner and someone who won't be afraid to brush up against the SEC's best. He'll have a good chance to find him in the next couple of months.

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