Fresh New Ideas

FAYETTEVILLE — Now that Jeff Long has settled into his new job as Arkansas' athletic director, he wants to implement several ideas that will affect the football program and increase the amount of money generated by the Razorbacks.

Those ideas include raising ticket prices for home football games, improving the technology available to new coach Bobby Petrino and possibly having some games available to fans on pay-per-view.

Long said Thursday that Razorback fans should expect ticket prices for the upcoming football season to increase, though he could not say exactly how much of an increase that will be.

"We're really focused on generating the revenue we need to operate. We're not focused on just how much can we squeeze out of our fans. It's not a question of that," Long said during a 30-minute interview with The Morning News on Thursday afternoon.

"We want to keep our ticket as affordable as we can, but at the same time generate the kind of revenue we need to run our program."

Long said the ticket increase will be announced sometime later this month. At the moment, school officials are in the "assessment process" and trying to determine how much to raise the cost for fans to attend games in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Arkansas is believed to rank toward the bottom half of the Southeastern Conference in ticket prices for home football games.

Long said the idea of raising the cost of tickets was discussed before he was hired in September to replace longtime Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles. And Long agreed that an increase was needed — and a long time coming.

"Everyone supporting the Razorbacks wants us to have a first-class program and wants us, I believe, I feel, to have the resources necessary to field winning teams and championship caliber teams," Long said. "It takes resources to do that."

Long said ticket prices could be increased on an annual basis, though he was quick to note that typically won't happen. Instead, any change will be part of a plan.

Long officially assumed control of Arkansas' athletic program when Broyles stepped down on Dec. 31.

And Long has spent the past few weeks examining how the Razorbacks could generate more revenue, including allowing some football games to be made available on pay-per-view.

Broyles opposed having Arkansas games that weren't picked up by a TV network to be shown on pay-per-view. But Long said he's open to the idea.

"Certainly, we will explore those opportunities, and if it makes sense for us and it can generate revenue for us, that's something we'll consider," Long said.

"I know Coach Broyles had reasons why he may not have wanted to do that. And if I have the information he has, I may make that same decision. But I'm open to it coming in."

Long said Arkansas must have the resources to keep up with other athletic department throughout the country. He also wants to improve some of the school's sports facilities, including perhaps building a basketball practice facility in the future.

Meanwhile, Petrino has asked Long for some specific improvements since being hired Dec. 11 to replace former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt.

Long said one of Petrino's request that has already been addressed is improving the technology available to the coach and his staff.

Long said a "significant investment" has been made since December — around $100,000 — on technology for the football program.

"This is a staff that is very technologically savvy. They are into game analysis and computer digital," Long said. "They will all have their own laptops that they can take with them to watch film."

Long said he has no plans at the moment of changing Arkansas' long-standing policy of not scheduling Arkansas State for football and basketball games.

However, he said a deal could also be finalized in the next month for Arkansas to play Texas A&M in Dallas. The series is expected to begin in 2009.

Long said a series in Dallas would increase Arkansas' exposure in Texas, appeal to a large fan base in the area and generate significant revenue for the university.

"There are a lot of reasons for us to look at that, and I can say we're seriously considering that and working to that end," Long said.

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