If the Joe Paternos, Graham Spaniers, Tim Curleys, and Gary Schultzes, of the world want a sympathetic ear for a decision like turning the other way on child sex abuse within the locker room of Penn State University, they won’t find it from University of Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long.
“That was a tragic lack of leadership by the people highest in the institution and the result of it has been adolescent boys harmed irreparably for the remainder of their lives,” Long said during a Friday morning (July 27) interview with The City Wire prior to his speech at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce Mid-Year Meeting.
When asked if he felt the NCAA overstepped its power in leveling penalties against Penn State, Long said, “In my mind, our number one priority in society should be to protect our children, so I’m comfortable with the penalties. I don’t question the penalties whatsoever.”
Neither is Long concerned about what this could mean for future demonstrations of power by NCAA officials.
“I don’t worry about slippery slopes because again, the circumstances around this situation are so horrific, I don’t see them happening again, and I sure as heck hope they don’t. I think these were unusual circumstances that called for unusual punishment,” he said.
Long continued: “Every individual citizen is responsible for reporting a crime. We also have the Clery Act on the University campus that requires us to report a crime to law enforcement. It’s a federal law. We all know it, and we all have that responsibility to report that kind of thing.”
Long also wanted to open the door for any Penn State students, who might wish to transfer.
“We would welcome them. They contributed nothing to that unfortunate situation out there.”
A second topic Long addressed prior to his speech at the chamber meeting: How are the football Razorbacks handling the distractions of a coaching transition and early Heisman Trophy talk surrounding quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis?
“I don’t think those are distractions. I think that Coach (John) Smith is someone they know, and someone who’s fit in seamlessly, and I think they will continue to work extremely hard. As for the Heisman situation, you know what, every year there are student athletes, who are held up as potential award winners, and so I think they’re used to that at this level when you play at the University of Arkansas.”
Long continued: “I don’t see that as being a distraction. I think it’s only a help to our program and our university to publicize who we are, so that more people across the country will pay attention to Arkansas.”
Long later said that the Petrino situation was a “tough” one, and “though the mainstream media was favorable to us,” it was the “overwhelming support from Razorback fans that still gets me emotional.”
Long admitted that “We didn’t know what we were going to do. We didn’t know how it would be received. But the fans have shown their support, “which we need to be able to compete in the toughest conference in the NCAA.”
ECONOMIC IMPACT AND STUDENT ATHLETE PERFORMANCE
Under the nearly five years Long has spent as Athletic Director at the University of Arkansas, the school’s athletic program has seen its budget rise from $58 million to $90 million, Long said, adding that “a recent economic impact study” conducted by the university found the program adds about $153.6 million to the local economy over a one-year period.
Student athlete grade-point averages have also risen since Long took over, going from “2.8 GPA to, most recently, 3.07,” Long said.
Athletically, Long noted the accomplishments of the school’s other programs, stating that of the 19 sports Razorback Athletics is involved in, “15 made the post-season. Our goal is to get all 19 of our sports qualified for post-season play.”
As for the Basketball Razorbacks, Long had a message for ticket holders, who “gave back their tickets: If you gave them up, you better get them back, because they’re going to be in high demand.”
Long praised new Head Coach Mike Anderson and predicted a “return to the successes we experienced under Coach Richardson.”
Following Long’s comments, Tim Allen, chief operating officer of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the recent Careers for Our Region Job Fair event was a success, bringing in a final total of around 850 with 80 participating companies.