Long: ‘One Game Doesn’t Define’ Program

FAYETTEVILLE —Jeff Long said he was disappointed, much like coaches, players and fans, after the 34-31 overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday.

But the Arkansas athletic director doesn’t believe the stumble against the Sun Belt Conference school will leave a long-term scar on the Razorbacks (1-1), who play No. 1 Alabama (2-0) today.

“One game does not make a season,” Long said. “One game does not define a program. One game does not indicate the success or failure of a program. One game does not cause me to doubt the direction of our athletic program.”

Long addressed supporters during a topping off ceremony for the $40 million football operations center Friday. It was the first time he has spoken publicly about Arkansas’ loss in Little Rock. Long insisted the Razorbacks will not be deterred by the loss as they continue to build a program he said has a “very, very bright” future.

“It’s a game. There are many bounces in the game and you know you’ve got to get back up and get back at it,” Long said. “Football or athletics is like life — it’s overcoming adversity. We all have adversity in our lives. That’s one that we stumbled on, but we’ll come back. We’re going to be strong.”

Long said he has heard the outcry from fans who are frustrated about the program after the ULM loss. But he said coaches and players were working hard to recover from the disappointment.

Long also maintained his support for Arkansas coach John L. Smith, who was named head coach last April after Bobby Petrino was fired.

Smith signed a 10-month contract with plans to maintain as much continuity as possible for a program that carried Southeastern Conference and national title hopes into 2012. Long said that won’t change even though Smith and the Razorbacks stumbled against ULM, continuing to support the coach.

He even said Smith remains in contention for the full-time position.

“We brought coach Smith back here to hold this program together,” Long said. “We were obviously in a very difficult situation at that time. He wanted to come back and help us and that’s what he’s doing. I’ve said from the beginning I’m conducting a coaching search and that hasn’t changed. Coach Smith has a chance to play, as he said, make it clear to me he is the right person at the end of the season.”

Long said Arkansas will continue to press on with its masterplan for facility improvements as well. Friday’s event was to celebrate the first phase of that plan — the football operations center and football practice fields.

The Arkansas Board of Trustees also approved $50 million for construction projects aimed to strengthen the basketball, baseball and indoor track program last week. Long said support remains strong and doesn’t believe the ULM loss will affect fundraising efforts for the program.

“I don’t think that fans who know our program and support us, because we lose a game, are going to suddenly no longer be Razorback fans,” Long said. “We talk about pulling together not apart. We know that this program and this state, we need to pull together. We’ve seen what happens in the past when you pull apart. We’re all about pulling together. We’re going to have bumps. Success is a journey. It’s not a straight-line journey. We’re going to have stops and starts and stumbles, but we’re going to keep pushing forward and we’re going to keep building this program.”