Short Process Brings Long To Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE -- During the entire search process for a new athletics director to replace Frank Broyles, University of Arkansas Chancellor Dr. John White did his best to make sure the new hire would remain a secret.

And in wanting to keep such a search as quiet as possible, Arkansas turned to a familiar face to make sure that would happen -- the Parker Executive Search Firm.

Just like at Kentucky, Minnesota, Iowa and even Arkansas once before -- where the Parker search firm was used to bring basketball coach John Pelphrey to the Razorbacks, it's worked again with Jeff Long's arrival at Arkansas.

With the announcement on Tuesday that Long would become the new men's athletic director at Arkansas once Frank Broyles steps down, one question remained. How did Arkansas keep Long's name off the short list of rumored candidates throughout the search process?

You can thank Parker Search Firm for that.

"During the closing weeks of the search, we secured the services of Mr. Dan Parker of Parker Executive Search in Atlanta," White said. Then using football terminology, White added, "Once we got into the redzone, Dan assisted us in getting the ball across the goalline."

Last April, the university paid the Parker Search Firm a total of $90,000 -- plus expenses -- to help find Pelphrey after the hiring of Dana Altman lasted all of one day. This time around, the price wasn't as high -- just $75,000 according to White -- but the result was the same.

Keeping the search quiet to all outside parties was the hard part. At least it was until the Parker firm became involved.

"We were going after people that were successful athletic directors at other major schools in the country," University Board of Trustees chairman Stanley Reed said. "It was a confidential situation when you're starting to interview or approach people that are very comfortable where they are and very successful where they are.

"Had the process not been extremely confidential then it would have violated their trust, and also it would have violated our ability, we think, to get the people to talk to us. From the very beginning, we kept everything in total confidence, not even telling our wives, but the process worked. Even the leaks that came recently, they were not on our end."

With the help of the Parker firm -- the same firm responsible for placing basketball coaches Kelvin Sampson at Indiana and Tubby Smith at Minnesota -- a small list of candidates was compiled. From that list, the search finally dwindled down to Long. White wouldn't comment on any other candidates who may have visited Fayetteville during the search, although he applauded the Parker firm for keeping things very confidential.

"It would not be fair to Jeff or to anyone else if I talked about anyone else on that list," White said. "I'll just say this, we had high quality people there and I particularly appreciated the efforts of Parker Executive Search.

"They're able to make back channel contacts and communicate with individuals in ways that we simply cannot do. They were a great assistance to us."

To keep the search even more secure, White went so far as to make sure no contract was signed with the Parker firm during the process.

"... In fact, we made the request to not have anything written down on paper," White said. "Everything in this process has been verbal and I told them if they needed to be paid first, I would pay them personally and then get reimbursed when the process is over. They said absolutely not and you're word is good with us."

From Long's standpoint, the search was quick-paced and very well done.

"They contacted me and I was very impressed with the way they contacted me," Long said. "The way they had things lined up and planned out, it actually went very quickly from the time they contacted me to where we're at today.

"I think when you're a sitting athletic director at another institution, you don't look at schools -- or at least I wouldn't -- look at just any schools that come along. It had to be a special place for me to take a look at the University of Arkansas. And typically at an institution like the University of Arkansas, these things happen very quickly. With just the confidentiality and such, it needs to happen very quickly."

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