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Long Gone: Razorbacks Replace Head Coach, Athletic Director

New+Razorback+head+coach%2C+former+SMU+head+coach+celebrates+a+win+from+SMU.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Saturday+Down+South%29
New Razorback head coach, former SMU head coach celebrates a win from SMU. (Photo courtesy of Saturday Down South)

New Razorback head coach, former SMU head coach celebrates a win from SMU. (Photo courtesy of Saturday Down South)

New Razorback head coach, former SMU head coach celebrates a win from SMU. (Photo courtesy of Saturday Down South)

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It’s been a wild couple of weeks in the world of Razorback athletics. Last week on Nov. 15, the university fired athletic director Jeff Long, which was followed by the firing of head football coach Bret Bielema just 10 days later on Nov. 25.

Long replaced Frank Broyles as the athletic director in 2008, and was under contract until 2022. During his 10 years, Long cycled through three head football coaches. Bobby Petrino, hired in 2008, led the Razorbacks to a record of 34-17 and a national ranking of number 3 in the four years before he was fired due to an off the field scandal. Following Petrino, Long hired interim coach John L. Smith, who held a disappointing 4-8 record. Many fans were disheartened with this transition, and begged for a new coach. That led to the dismissal of Smith and the arrival of Bielema, who came with a strong resume, including three consecutive conference championships with Wisconsin, and a glimpse of hope for Arkansas fans everywhere. He also brought with him an experience of growing up on a hog farm, which was a comedic hope for many fans. Fans even coined the phrase “I’m a Bielemer.”

Long was a strong supporter of Bielema from the beginning, but as the Razorbacks started losing once again, we were back to the classic “Heartbreak Hogs” and a fan base that demanded better.

His first season, 2013, was rough (which was to be expected for a first year coach) as the hogs went 3-9, but as Long continued to hype up Bielema, fans stayed hopeful. The 2014 season led to a season record of 7-6, and a Texas Bowl win. 2015 was even more impressive with a 8-5 record and a Liberty Bowl win. 2016 declined slightly as we went 7-6 and appeared in the Belk Bowl, where we had a 24 point lead at halftime, then gave up 35 unanswered points to ultimately lose the game against Virginia Tech. That’s when many started to put pressure on the athletic department to fire Bielema.

As we all know, 2017 was a dumpster fire. Fans flipped from #ImABielemer to #FireBielema. The Razorbacks went 4-8 overall but 1-7 in the SEC, clearly upsetting fans, and it all resulted in the firing of Long and Bielema, leaving the football program basically in shambles. While it appears hopeless, many fans have optimism that we will recruit a new coach and the program will do a complete 180.

The favorites for coaches were Bret Venables, Clemson defensive coordinator, Mike Norvell, University of Memphis head coach, Les Miles, the former LSU head coach, and Gus Malzahn, the Auburn head coach. This season has been rough on SEC head coaches, with Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Florida, and Arkansas all firing their head coaches.

We have now hired Chad Morris, the former SMU head coach. He went 7-4 this season, but don’t let that record fool you. He has built up SMU’s program from one-win seasons, and the future looks hopeful for the Hogs.

Although we are still in search of an athletic director, fans will love this fresh start. After such a disappointing season, there’s only one place to go for the football program, and that’s up. In the meantime, Arkansas fans can enjoy watching the promising basketball team and the always impressive baseball team.

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