Page 3 of 3
And then the news of Bielema's hiring came, shooting one last ripple through the state before the calendar turned. Arkansas's 32nd head football coach was, per Long, a guy that had been eyeballed all along, not only for his successes but for his integrity. That, of course, was a callback to April 10, when Long riveted the eyes and ears of sportswriters toward the Ozarks with an emotional press conference where Petrino's baggage was exposed and then placed neatly on the curb outside the Broyles Athletic Center. Long's voice cracked and paused often, his emotions waxing and waning as the coach's missteps were recited and duly appraised. But near the end of his prepared statement, Long gathered himself fully and said with conviction:
"No single individual is bigger than the team, the Razorback football program or the University of Arkansas. I assure you we will seek a head coach that possesses the expertise, leadership skills and character to maintain Razorback football as one of the nation's elite programs."
For an athletic program that has fiscally prospered under Long's direction, opting to cut ties with Petrino carried untold risk, as did the subsequent choice of Smith to shepherd the program. The rearview analysis of Long's self-authored 2012 trilogy is as follows: Firing Petrino was responsible and correct, hiring Smith was well intended but assuredly a gaffe, and the reach for Bielema is the one that will eventually tilt Long's legacy one way or the other. While the Razorback basketball and baseball teams excel, or at least show the markers thereof, it is the football team that lords over all. If Long did not know that before April 2012, he most definitely does now.
Being Arkansan of the Year is, in many instances, equal parts blessing and curse. Long would probably just as soon hand this crown off forever if it means he'll have to experience another year like the one he just put behind him.
Where is the 2013 Ballot???
What Orval Faubus did in 1957 was not a governor gone all mavericky. He was…
This is what we've come to: Fighting among ourselves over points in an obituary.
A&E Feature / To-Do List / In Brief / Movie Reviews / Music Reviews / Theater Reviews / A&E News / Art Notes / Graham Gordy / Books / Media / Dining Reviews / Dining Guide / What's Cookin' / Calendar / The Televisionist / Movie Listings / Gallery Listings