Entering his ninth full year as Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics, Jeff Long has helped transform the University of Arkansas’ Department of Intercollegiate Athletics into one of the most successful and mission driven programs in the country. Long, the 2015 SportsBusiness Journal (SBJ) and SportsBusiness Daily (SBD) Athletic Director of the Year, leads a program that encompasses 19 sports and more than 460 student-athletes.
Long has focused every aspect of the Razorback program on achieving the mission of developing student-athletes to their fullest potential through intercollegiate athletics. In the process, he has also emerged as nationally respected leader within intercollegiate athletics and an influential voice on issues pertaining to student-athletes and their collegiate experience.
Long served as the inaugural College Football Playoff selection chairman for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and remains a member of the selection committee through 2017. He also currently serves as the athletics director representative on the Southeastern Conference’s Executive Committee.
Even while representing his institution and the state in some of the most prestigious leadership positions in college sports, Long has guided the Razorback program to unprecedented success. In Long’s tenure, Arkansas has captured 29 conference championships and advanced to 123 post-season competitions, including the school’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance in football and national titles at the 2013 NCAA Men’s Indoor and the 2015 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships and the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In 2015-16, Arkansas finished among the top 30 in the Learfield Sports Directors Cup for the eighth time in nine years, including the top 25 for the seventh time in that span. In addition to the second women’s national title in as many years, the Razorbacks completed a 2015-16 SEC triple crown in both men’s and women’s track and field winning all six team titles in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field.
In the classroom, the Razorbacks continue to set new standards including posting a school record student-athlete grade point average of 3.25 in the fall 2015 semester. Arkansas led the conference in selections to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, including a league high 40 football student-athletes. Razorback student-athletes finished the academic year with a 3.23 GPA in the spring semester marking the 13th consecutive term Razorback student-athletes posted a GPA exceeding 3.0. For the fourth consecutive year, Arkansas exceeded the national APR multi-year rate in all 19 sports. Graduation success rates continue to rise with an average of 100 current or former Razorback student-athletes graduating each year.
Student-athlete development has also been a priority. A $10.65 million gift from the family of former Razorback and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, the largest gift to athletics in more than two decades, transformed an already nationally recognized program into one that rivals any in the country. The Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center is a 55,000 square foot facility dedicated to the development of more than 460 Razorback student-athletes.
Even before his appointment as the CFP Selection Committee’s Chairman, Long’s leadership and unwavering commitment to the student-athletes and maintaining integrity within intercollegiate athletics had not gone unnoticed. In 2013, Long was named as an Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year for the Football Bowl Subdivision. In 2012, Long was named a finalist for the SBJ/SBD Athletic Director of the Year. In the spring of 2012, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation and longtime chairman Fred W. Smith made a combined gift of more than $1.25 million to the program in recognition of Long’s leadership of Razorback Athletics.
A member of the Chancellor’s Executive Committee, Long is helping to chart the course for the future of higher education at the University of Arkansas while integrating Razorback Athletics into the campus community. Arkansas is one of less than 25 institutions in the nation to have a financially self-sustaining athletics department. Razorback Athletics receives no state funding and does not collect a student fee. In fact, the department routinely gives millions of dollars each year to support other campus academic programs.
In each of the past six years, Razorback Athletics has transferred funds totaling more than $1 million to support the university’s academic mission. For 2016-17, the department’s total support of university and student programs and initiatives will include more than $3.325 million in direct funding of academic programs including financial support for Champions Hall, a new classroom and laboratory building, to serve the entire University of Arkansas student population.
Long was selected to replace legendary athletic director and former Razorback football coach Frank Broyles and even before he officially took the reins on Jan. 1, 2008, Arkansas announced that it would combine its previously independent men’s and women’s athletic programs. Long adeptly blended the athletic programs into one unified department and established a new administrative structure.
Under Long’s leadership, the program has fortified its financial standing ensuring more support for the development of student-athletes. As economic indicators were beginning to point toward challenging economic times, Long signed Arkansas to a decade long deal with IMG College to form Razorback Sports Properties that guaranteed the Razorback program $73 million. Long also negotiated an extensive all sports apparel and footwear agreement with NIKE, Inc. for all 19 Razorback sports programs.
In 2010, Long moved to help meet the growing financial needs of fielding a nationally competitive all sports program. The athletic department launched the “Answer the Call” campaign through the Razorback Foundation which resulted in more than 2,600 new members and helped generate more than $6.5 million in additional support for Razorback student-athletes.
With an eye towards the future, Long commissioned a comprehensive plan to assess the future facility needs of the program. Unveiled in October 2011, the Razorback Athletic Facilities Master Plan provided a vision and the road map for $320 million of facility renovations and additions that will help all 19 Razorback sports remain competitive in the SEC and nationally over the next 30 years.
Projects already completed as part of the plan include the Fred W. Smith Football Center, the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Training Center, extensive renovations of the George Billingsley Tennis Center, John McDonnell Field (outdoor track and field), Razorback Field (soccer) and the Fred W. Smith and Mary B. Smith Golf Training Facility. In the fall of 2015, a Basketball Performance Center and the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center opened to Razorback student-athletes.
In June 2016, the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees approved a $160 million Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium Renovation and North End Zone Addition that will be completed in time for the 2018 football season. No university funds, state funds or student fees will be required to complete the project.
According to a recent economic impact study, Razorback Athletics will have an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion in five years. The study estimated Razorback Athletics generates $162.7 million annually to the region’s economy. In addition, recent athletic construction has generated another $110.9 million for the region.
A veteran administrator with a track record of the highest commitment to the concept of “student-athlete,” Long has had more than two decades experience in athletic administration at the Division I level including at the University of Pittsburgh, University of Oklahoma, University of Michigan, Virginia Tech University, Eastern Kentucky University and Rice University. Long also understands the coach’s perspective from time spent in coaching staff positions at Duke University, University of Michigan and North Carolina State University.
His experience as an athletic director and administrator in five of the six Bowl Championship Series conferences – the Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Atlantic Coast and SEC – gives Long a uniquely informed perspective on intercollegiate athletics.
On the forefront of NCAA governance, Long has served on the NCAA Management Council, the NCAA’s Sports Wagering Task Force and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division I-A Athletic Directors’ Association. Long served on the NCAA Championships/Sports Management Cabinet.
Prior to assuming his current roles at Arkansas, Long served for four years as the athletic director at the University of Pittsburgh. Long redefined Pitt athletics, most notably through the “Quest for Excellence” campaign that raised nearly $34 million to enhance the student-athlete experience. During his tenure, the program was selected No. 17 in the nation in the 2006 Sports Illustrated on Campus’ All-Sport Rankings.
Before arriving at Pitt, Long was senior associate athletic director at Oklahoma for two and a half years overseeing external affairs for the Sooners. In addition, Long was the primary administrator for the Sooners’ highly successful football and men’s basketball programs, along with sport supervision of baseball, wrestling and both golf teams.
Long’s first appointment as a director of athletics was at Eastern Kentucky where he served for two and a half years. Prior to Eastern, Long had a brief stay with Virginia Tech as an associate athletics director.
He began his career in college athletic administration at Michigan, hired by legendary coach and athletics director, the late Bo Schembechler. During his seasons with the Wolverines, Long was promoted through a series of posts to the position of associate athletics director.
A former two-sport athlete at Ohio Wesleyan, Long earned seven varsity letters for the Bishops in football and baseball before completing his degree in economics in 1982. He started his post-graduate career in athletics working on head coach Tom Reed’s staff as a graduate assistant football coach at the cradle of coaches, Miami University of Ohio. Long earned his master’s in education at Miami in 1983, moving on to football staff positions at Rice, Duke and N.C. State prior to joining Michigan.
An Ohio native from Kettering, Long is married to the former Fanny Gellrich of Ann Arbor, Mich. The Longs have two daughters, Stephanie and Christina. In spring 2016, Stephanie graduated Summa Cum Laude with two degrees from the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. She is currently enrolled in graduate school at the University of Arkansas. Christina is a senior honors student at Fayetteville High School. She is also a contributing photographer for Razorback Athletics.