Jeff Long was given eight months. Eight months to give a new football coach to Arkansas, a coach that could be trusted and a hire that must impress a fan base that had just recently experienced some of its proudest seasons in 20 years. Long had to make them forget how much better Bobby was than anything realistically available.
Long did just that.
While what Long did in luring Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin and the factory of success he had set up in Madison was impressive, how he did it should not go unnoticed.
In a time of unprecedented media coverage of college football and during a time where social media infiltrates every rumor or secret, allowing fans to know more about what is going on with their program than any other time, Long effectively duped reporters, insiders and message boards alike. From Gundy to Gary (Patterson) and Charlie (Strong) to Chucky, none of these rumors came to fruition.
We should have stopped the speculation long ago because Arkansas' Athletic Director was going to get his man, as he has proven time and time again that he will do; John L. Smith should not be held against him. He recieved plenty of flak for letting some candidates, or at least who we thought were candidates, get away. His track record of big hires should have been enough.
In the major money-making sports, the entire fan base's favorite to bring Razorback basketball back to where it was in the mid-90s was Mike Anderson. Long delivered. He stole Bobby Petrino away from an NFL gig and by doing so brought a BCS bowl berth and 10-win seasons to The Hill. Long then went into Big 10 country and plucked out one of their most consistent and talented coaches, leaving even Badger administrators stunned.
Coaching searches and hires are a time to gauge the integrity of an athletic department, see where the leaks are, and when the news of Bielema's hire hit social media, everyone was shocked. Shocked to know that Arkansas pulled off this hire and did so quietly.
Go back and check this site's Next Head Coach Tracker pieces. Not once will you find Bielema's name. I was elated to read Bielema's name in connection with the Arkansas job and maybe even more so to know that this administration fooled everyone.
Some of you may not be thrilled with the hire, though that makes no sense to me. If you want to see how it could have gone, or could be going, look at Tennessee. Volunteer Athletic Director cannot get anyone to come and coach despite rumors galore of supposed hires and coaches that are definitely coaching in Knoxville next season.They may be forced to employ to Phillip Fulmer again. (Editor's Note: Tennessee hired Cincinnati's Butch Jones at about the same time this was published. The hiring occured after the Vols were turned down by many, many candidates).
Look to The Plains. Auburn went backwards to Gus Malzahn, and many of their supporters are in no way thrilled. Alabama people are though, for good reason.
Long won the hiring game this season.
If anything was learned from this reckless eight-month period in Razorback football history, it is that Long will take care his teams and fans. Through the bad time, firing one of Arkansas' most successful coaches because it was the right thing to do to hiring big-time names to fill voids in the program's biggest sports.
Enjoy Bielema and what he brings to the football team, but also enjoy knowing Long won the hiring game this season with style.