Long Understands Fans Disappointment Over Arkansas' 1-2 Start

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long had some interesting takes on multiple topics, including gambling and fantasy games. Long was the guest Wednesday at the Northwest Arkansas TD Club.

Jeff Long told a second touchdown meeting this week that he is "surprised" at the 1-2 start for the Arkansas football team, but that the season is not over.

Long, the UA athletic director, was the featured speaker at the Northwest Arkansas Touchdown Club on Monday, two days after he visited with a similar club in Little Rock.

"I'm surprised, because I thought we'd be sitting here 3-0," Long said. "I thought our team had evolved. But every matchup is different. We still have work to do."

Long said he's not surprised fans are upset that Bret Bielema's third team is off to a 1-2 start after opening the season ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll.

"Fans are fans," he said. "Fans are passionate. I wouldn't want them any other way. You want that scrutiny. We need that. It shows that they care."

By the same token, Long said administrators, coaches and players have to "block that out." He said they all must focus on their tasks.

"The static, you have to block that out," he said. "Fans are passionate. They want to win every game. I want to win every game.

"Athletes have to block that out. Whether it's criticism or praise, you have to block that out because that can get you off your game."

Were expectations set too high?

"I don't think so," he said. "I get that from other athletic directors, about controlling or managing expectations. I have never given that a thought. I want our fans to be engaged. You want them to be there and have that home field advantage. You need it more in a (losing) season than when you are winning."

Long's appearance was in a question and answer session, moderated by Bo Mattingly, NWA TD Club host. But he did take questions from the group, then from the media afterwards.

One of the questions from both parts concerned the contract with Texas A&M to continue to play games at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Aggies and Razorbacks meet there at 6 p.m. Saturday for their SEC contest. It's a home game for Arkansas this season. Apparently, A&M officials are not huge fans of the neutral site game, preferring to play on campus.

Long explained that the game generates $3 million for each side, each year. That's more than Arkansas could make in a home game.

"And, it's times two," he said. "Because you wouldn't get that revenue the year you went on the road. So it's really double."

Long said A&M officials signed the contract twice and he expects it to run its course.

"They signed it before they came into the SEC and again after they were members of the SEC," said Long. "We expect to play the game until the end of the contract in 2024."

It's clear that A&M and Arkansas don't view the site the same.

"Our challenge is different than their challenge," Long said. "We have a small recruiting base. It exposes our program to a big recruiting base and for all of our programs. The coaches in our other program see benefits from the game and it also helps us recruit students. It's extremely impactful."

Long was asked about the possibility of playing Baylor in a neutral site game, possibly in Houston, Kansas City or Orlando.

"We've had conversations with around a dozen different schools," Long said, noting that there would be an opening for such a game in 2020. That's the year when it works the best in our schedule."

One of the topics discussed Monday concerned advertising revenue from fantasy football companies that SEC schools asked the SEC Network to turn down. Is it gambling, a subject that has come into high profile spots in ESPN programming?

"That's a challenging subject, gambling," Long said. "As a college administrator, what is a fantasy game? Is it gambling? Some say it's a game of skill."

Long said there have even been discussions on whether or not to stop college athletes from participating in fantasy pro leagues.

"As much as we might like to do that, we don't think we have the ability to do that where it comes to the pro sports," Long said. "I've never done it, been in a fantasy league. One of my daughters has. One of the things that we looked in to, some states think it's gambling, some don't. Arkansas recognizes it as gambling.

"So you look at it, the NCAA says wagering is illegal. The stance (by ESPN) caught us by surprise. It's shown on ESPN and ESPN owns the SEC Network. We do have control over the SEC Network, but not ESPN. We asked them to remove that advertising. They did, but they told us it would impact our revenue.

"It's an industry that has put half a billion in revenue into advertising. Imagine how much money they are making?"

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