Photographs by Flip Putthoff
Jeff Long, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, athletic director, chats Wednesday Sept. 6 2017 after his talk to the NWA Touchdown Club.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Jeff Long talked to the Little Rock Touchdown Club on Monday and spoke on the success of the graduation rate among athletes and how all programs combined had a 3.25 GPA.
He said he and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville athletic department need to raise more money to be competitive in the SEC, and that with a yearly budget of $115 million they are almost there.
And he said that he, the football team and the coaching staff feel badly about what happened Saturday when the Razorbacks lost to TCU 28-7.
Some in the room nodded their heads, and judging solely on emails received by yours truly, the disappointment is widespread.
Take this email for instance:
"I'm not giving up on the team or the program, but, for now at least, I'm not going to any more games in person.
"We park at Baum Stadium and ride the bus. We spent $130 on two tickets (lower level, east side, end zone). We were packed into the middle of a row like sardines. It took 20 minutes to go spend $6 on two drinks. The internet works about 50 percent of the time. It's just not much fun.
"We go to 3-4 games a year. We've boiled on the West side in September. We've sat through rainstorms. We've endured the cold. We've put up with obnoxious Alabama fans. What's looking good the rest of the year is my couch, my moderate-sized tv, a nearby bathroom with no lines, and a fridge with cold drinks.
"We could get that at the stadium for $100,000 or we can get it at home for free. I'm going with the home option."
There have been dozens of similar emails, some much stronger, though some might say they're from divisive fans.
Others might say they are honest ones who are tired.
Apparently they were sick and tired of the new food vendor at Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday. Long said they are aware of the problems, that the new vendor had never worked a game, and they are working on it.
The biggest concern is on the field. When fans shell out the money to be entertained, they expect to be entertained. Saturday they were disappointed instead.
It was much quoted Monday, but it is a fact that in the Hogs' past three games against Power 5 schools they have been outscored 70-0 in the second half.
At most schools a coach in his fifth season who is 26-27 overall and 10-22 in SEC play might be on a hot seat, but Long reassured the lunch bunch of about 300 that he feels Bret Bielema will turn it around, and he very well may.
Not to make excuses, but Bielema came into a Razorbacks program that was beyond broken. It was shattered.
Bielema had great success as Wisconsin's head coach, but in the South, bigger is not always better. The name of the game is speed.
The new end zone facility is going to be beautiful and may attract Fortune 500 companies to buy those special seats and suites. Will it help recruit kids who run a 4.4 40-yard dash?
Two things to keep in mind: Bielema's teams for the most part have improved as the season progressed, so the Razorbacks seen on Saturday may not be the same ones playing in November.
Second, and this is for the few who think Bielema should be on the hottest seat this side of Hades: Who can the UA attract that is better? The talent pool for head coaching candidates is fairly shallow, and Chip Kelly is going to have his pick of jobs.
The bottom line is that as long as the seats continue to be sold and money continues to fill UA coffers, everything is OK.
Finally, it's still early and a lot can happen. But Long is well aware fans are concerned.
Sports on 09/12/2017
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