FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long announced Sunday night he was not “seeking a position or engaged in the search process of another University” after his name was linked in media reports to the Texas job.
But the Longhorns’ interest has proven pretty profitable for Long.
Arkansas awarded its athletic director an annual raise of $100,000 effective Nov. 1, according to a letter obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Long also will receive another $100,000 annual increase from the university on July 1, 2014 and has awarded an additional one-time payment of $100,000.
The raise and bonus were given to Long in exchange for his “agreement to remove yourself from consideration for another position,” according to a letter from Arkansas chancellor David Gearhart. The letter does not mention Texas by name, but increases Long’s annual pay to $1.1 million beginning July 1, 2014 with the opportunity to earn up to $250,000 more in easily obtained incentives.
“I am very appreciative of your outstanding leadership of the Athletics Department and the positive attention you have garnered for the University of Arkansas,” Gearhart wrote to Long in a letter. “(Arkansas) President Donald Bobbitt and I are also aware that another institution of higher education with significant resources has expressed its desire to retain your services for its athletic department at a higher compensation level than you are currently receiving at the University. Accordingly, the University would like to retain you in your current position.”
Long was linked to the Texas job in media reports last weekend. The Dallas Morning News reported that Long was one of three finalists for the position along with Arizona State’s Steve Patterson and West Virginia’s Oliver Luck. The report also indicated Long was expected to interview for the position this week.
Long took to Twitter to stress he was not part of the search process of another University and also said in a statement released by the university he would not comment on “unsubstantiated rumors.” However, Gearhart’s letter indicated Texas had at least inquired and Long was rewarded for remaining at the school.
Texas named Patterson its new athletic director Tuesday.
“Jeff is a major reason that I came here,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said during Monday’s press conference. “He has a lot of respect in the profession. To be quite honest, the very first time that I even heard Texas was going to have an opening I said to myself, ‘I’m sure they are going to take a swing at Jeff.’ How much of that became reality I don’t know, but … never really was any question on my end.”
The raise became Long’s second in the past 13 months. Arkansas extended his contract and bumped his salary to $900,00 last October as the Razorbacks prepared to conduct their search for the next football coach.
Long’s new agreement includes an increase in his buyout at Arkansas. He would owe the university $1.3 million if he were to leave before June 30, 2015, which was an increase from his previous buyout of $1 million. The buyout drops to $500,000 for 2015-16, $250,000 in 2016-17 and $100,000 in the final year (2017-18).
Long’s visibility has risen in the past two years beginning with his handling of the Bobby Petrino scandal in April 2012. He also was named the first chairman of the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee.
Long was asked in October if he planned to use the high-profile position as a springboard to other opportunities. He said Arkansas remained his priority.
“I’m not interested in listening to anybody about anything,” Long said about other job offers. “This is my job. This is a job that I’m excited to lead and a program I’m excited to lead. And you know what, looking at what we’ve done the last five years, I’m very proud of that. I’m looking forward to continuing.”
Gearhart’s letter outlined Arkansas’ plan to keep Long in place to do so.
“Thank you for your continued service to the Athletic Department and the University,” Gearhart wrote. “We know that, by accepting the terms presented in this letter, that you will be foregoing the opportunity to earn more compensation elsewhere, and we appreciate your commitment to the University.”