UA's Long learns about LR games

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said Monday that after being in the state for almost a year, he has come to understand why the Razorbacks play football games in Little Rock.

"I'll be very frank and admit to you that when I walked in the door and first took over, I had the belief that certainly we should take every football game to Fayetteville ...," Long told the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

But during his time in the state, Long said he has come to know passion for the Razorbacks runs throughout Arkansas.

"I've also come to know this is a very small state and that we certainly need all fans, all supporters from all corners of the state supporting us because we can't do it alone," he said. "We can't do it just with one part of the state. We need the entire state supporting the Razorbacks, and I think playing in War Memorial Stadium is a big step. It helps us reach out to the entire state."

He acknowledged stadium commission chairman Gary Smith in the audience and said he appreciated the recent two-year extension of the contract between the commission and the athletic department for Razorback games in Little Rock through 2016.

Prior to his remarks, Long was given a T-Shirt with "Rock On," referring to continuing games in Little Rock.

During his speech, Long mentioned there were nearly 8,000 subscribers to the pay-per-view of Arkansas vs. Louisiana-Monroe and promised improvements in the production. He also said the graduation rate of student-athletes is lower than that of the student population and said that would change.

Appearing just two days after the 49-14 loss to Alabama, Long was emphatic in his praise of first-year coach Bobby Petrino.

"If I have to tell the head football coach what to do, who to hire, how to coach, then I've got the wrong head football coach, and I want you to know we've got the right football coach," he said to applause.

Long said he is more convinced than ever that Petrino is the right man for the UA job.

"He is the guy to lead us to where we want to go," Long said. "We want to be at the top of the Western Division. We want to compete for SEC championships. We want to do that in a consistent manner. We're going to do that. We may not do that this year. We may not do that next year, but it's coming and it's coming sooner rather than later."

He also mentioned plans are in the works to renovate the Broyles Athletic Complex and to raise money for the project. In its day, the facility was outstanding, Long said, but added, "It's not big enough for the modern-day football program."

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