Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Life can resume in the Natural State because the University of Arkansas has a new athletic director, or at least an athletic director in waiting for the day the Frank Broyles retires. Few people even in sports circles have heard of the man, Jeff Long, but Arkansas will pay him $450,000 plus perquisites.

There was a day when the athletic director of a university was the worn-out head football coach, and his remuneration was approximately in line with the less exalted status.

But no more.

Jeff Long will be paid far more than any non-athletic official of the university or, indeed, of the entire state government — six times as much as the governor. Long had been a minor administrator in several university athletic departments before becoming the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh.

Broyles, after a half-century at the university, was allowed to announce his retirement early this year after the university’s Board of Trustees privately expressed its dismay at the mess that he and the head football coach had made of contentions over several freshmen football players.

Broyles asked to be allowed to retire at the end of year, and the board with proper good grace obliged. There was a feeling that Broyles had lost his magic touch. The basketball program, the best in the nation only 10 years ago, was an embarrassment, and Broyles had to hire as the new coach a lightly regarded coach who had a mediocre record in one of the weakest conferences in the land.

Jeff Long no doubt will steer the sports program wisely, and we wish him well. Our problem is with the university governance that offered the gentleman a five-year rollover contract at a sum far out of sync with the job’s relative importance. Chancellor John White disagrees.

He said the 2.5 million people of Arkansas considered themselves “winners” only if Razorback athletic teams excelled. The state needs to pay a high salary to an athletic director who will produce super teams so that the people of Arkansas can feel good about themselves.

Not since H.L. Mencken has anyone said anything so degrading about Arkansas. We only pray that he is not right.