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First-year athletic director Jeff Long has been busily dragging the University of Arkansas Athletic Department into the 21st century. Measures taken over the last couple of weeks signal a sea change for Razorback athletics. Gone are the days of old, when the organizational values of what is both a multimillion-dollar business and a department at our largest state-funded university descended directly from a white male septuagenarian. We now understand — or at least recognize — the cultural changes necessary to running a successful athletic department.
Frank Broyles understood progress in material terms. His vision of the Razorback athletic program was strictly brick and mortar. Say what you will about the negative aspects of his tenure, nobody can overstate his positive impact on the Hogs, from the Razorback Foundation to Donald W. Reynolds Stadium. That vision just never really included a url.
Even the most churlish among us will note that top-flight facilities were not limited to our most profitable programs. All of our athletic facilities — from softball to tennis, track to football — stand in the first class relative to other universities. If we can all call him Pawpaw, Broyles did a pretty good job of not playing favorites.
(And Razorback athletics indeed pays for itself. Maybe not the university parking lots or Razorback Road or the police who patrol the games or the guys who cut the lawn that serves as tailgating space, but at least the day-to-day operations and sports-specific construction. Such independence has some value to the university — like, say, giving the chancellor time to focus on more important matters — while at the same time allowing the Athletic Department to slough off most of its responsibilities to the academic institution. C'est la NCAA!)
Given the rock-solid infrastructure bequested him by his predecessor, Long has time to stop breaking ground in the physical world and have a crack at breaking the mold. Dropping the “Lady” from Razorback sports seems a no-brainer for many, a trivial waste of time to some, and a non-event to others. But having the will to make such a sweeping change for the sake of language shows a deep commitment to the values of inclusion that Broyles saw fit to recognize only in material equality among Razorbacks.
Long's updating of the official Hog website, while by no means an ethical decision, displays a savvy for business that transcends budgetary concerns. Hogwired.com was more a blunt instrument than a website. Slow-loading and busy, organized along the lines of something an FM radio station might put together, it needed the vast overhaul. The new site looks sleek and easy to navigate — existing for the fan and the potential recruit alike. Even the url change to plain and simple arkansasrazorbacks.com smacks of much-needed professionalism.
This is not about being slick. We don't have to be bright and shiny and hip to succeed in this world. But we do need to demonstrate that we have a willingness to operate at a certain level. The money's gotten too good for the old system to work. A phone call among golf buddies won't get it done. Unscrupulous agents swim these modern seas. Recruits can smell an old fart from a mile away. The good ole boy's time is gone, for better not worse, and brighter days lie ahead.
In other news, not a single Razorback linebacker got into any manner of trouble over the last couple of weeks. Let's see if we can make it three....