UA athletic update: Whatever Jeff Long's future, he has a contract through as late as 2022 | Arkansas Blog

UA athletic update: Whatever Jeff Long's future, he has a contract through as late as 2022

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WAITING: Jeff Long sits alone while  UA Board met in executive session Thursday at Pulaski Tech. - TYLER THOMASON/KARK
  • Tyler Thomason/KARK
  • WAITING: Jeff Long sits alone while UA Board met in executive session Thursday at Pulaski Tech.

The mysterious University of Arkansas Board of Trustees private session yesterday about athletics at Fayetteville prompted questions about the employment contract of Athletic Director Jeff Long, who's come in for criticism (privately) from several members of the Board. Turns out it may run through 2022, with what amounts to a buyout provision.

The Board ended a three-hour session yesterday without taking formal action or commenting on what was discussed while Long sat quietly outside the meeting room as the Board met with Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz.

Since then, there's been official silence. A campus spokesman referred questions to the Board of Trustees, whose members have said they couldn't discuss private session matters. The campus also declined a comment to my question of whether Steinmetz expected the same leadership to be in place in athletics at this time next year.

If Board approval of the status quo in athletics at Fayetteville was the result of yesterday's meeting, I believe Steinmetz, System President Donald Bobbitt or someone would have said so forcefully. Instead, silence. That leads to the conclusion that there will be a transition in leadership, in a time and manner determined by the leader of the campus, and not following a public dictate of the Board of Trustees.

There are many complications. One is the football coach. Bret Bielema, doing poorly in his  fifth year, seems unlikely to survive absent an unlikely finish to this season. He has a contract through 2020, but can be terminated for a buyout estimated at more than $5 million. The timing of such a change is important, because recruiting is ongoing. Several Board members don't want Long choosing a successor.

Future schedules, another prerogative of the athletic director, are also up in the air, particularly the future of games in Little Rock. Long had been lobbying the Board to end the games in Little Rock, including the single game planned for 2018. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, however, has taken War Memorial Stadium on as a project. He told Long he wants the game next year to be played in Little Rock and Long reportedly got the message. In return, the governor has made assurances that he'll provide the money, perhaps $3 million or so, to wire War Memorial Stadium with camera gear, digital cable and studio necessary to meet standards of the SEC network.

But back to a change in athletic director, if it does come to pass. I've been writing, as have others, that Long's contract ran through June 30, 2018, based on the last contract I've been able to find in news articles. It allowed termination, with the only payment due any money owed for time remaining on the contract. Turns out that time is much longer than generally thought.

I obtained a copy of Long's most recent contract amendment today.  You can read it all here. In an agreement effective, July 1, 2015, signed by Long and then-Chancellor David Gearhart, his contract was extended through June 30, 2020. It provided base pay of $750,000  and the possibility of bonuses and incentive pay, as specified on the contract, plus the potential for annual pay increases. Public databases put his salary currently at $1.01 million.

In his original contract, he also gets an automatic one-year extension to his contract annually if there is no written communication to the contrary. (I have asked under FOI for any communications related to the contract and that search continues at UA.) Thus, unless a contrary communication was sent in 2016 and 2017, two more years were added to the 2015 agreement by the automatic rollover, making an ending date of 2022.

Under the terms of his original contract, which you can read here, the university may terminate Long for "convenience" in return for payment to him of his guaranteed university salary, a promise backed by the Razorback Foundation. In a letter summarizing the new contract, the chancellor said Long would be paid $1 million a year, pro-rated for time remaining, or well more than $4 million at this point.

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