FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas will merge its men’s and women’s athletics programs into a single administrative unit, effective Jan. 1, 2008.
The university has maintained two separate athletics departments since 1972, the same year Title IX, the federal mandate requiring gender-based equal opportunity in education, was signed into law.
Jeff Long, who will succeed longtime men’s athletics director Frank Broyles on Jan. 1, will assume the newly defined roles of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics and director of athletics. In this capacity, he will report to Chancellor John. A. White and serve as a formal member of the university’s executive committee.
“When Coach Broyles informed me of his retirement, I stepped back, looked at our overall athletics program, and asked, ‘If we were starting from scratch, what changes should we make to the program, and how can we take it to the next level?’” said White. “We believe merging the two departments will allow our student-athletes, men and women, to inspire and learn from each other and benefit from what is best about both programs. We also believe unification will streamline budgeting and optimize administrative processes.
“Simply put, the total program is stronger than the sum of its parts,” added White. “Not only does merging the two departments make good business sense, but more importantly, we believe it is the best model to serve our student-athletes in the 21st century. We will bring together the absolute best of both departments into one unit – a unit that will be stronger, more efficient and better prepared to face the needs and challenges of this new century.”
Under the new structure, Bev Lewis, director of women’s athletics since 1989, will assume new positions of associate vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics and executive associate athletic director, reporting to Long. She will continue to serve as the senior women’s administrator, but will have increased responsibilities that also encompass men’s programs.
“Since Jeff Long has been brought on board, and I’ve had the chance to talk with him, we’ve discussed what we might be able to accomplish by working together,” said Lewis, who first arrived at the university as women’s track and field coach in 1981. “It’s clear that we have a tremendous opportunity here – one that we should seize. This unified structure provides me with a new challenge, and I am very excited about being involved in the total athletics program.
“As is the men’s program, the women’s program is strong, solid and viable,” added Lewis. “I personally believe a separate program allowed the women’s sports to grow and become an equal partner with the men’s programs. It is now time to unify the departments. I look forward to working with Jeff to assist with the creation of a model athletic program that will benefit all student-athletes and the entire Razorback nation.”
Long, who was introduced as Broyles’ successor in September, has a career spanning more than 20 years in intercollegiate athletics, including administrative positions at Pittsburgh, Oklahoma, Eastern Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Michigan.
“It’s my sense that our fans always have been one Razorback nation, supporting both departments,” said Long, who directed a unified athletics program at Pitt prior to his arrival in Fayetteville. “Today, as we move forward together into the bright future of Razorback athletics, we do so with the same overarching goal – developing young men and women academically, athletically and socially so that the University of Arkansas continues to be a source of pride for this great state and for Razorbacks everywhere.”
The University of Arkansas fields eight men’s and 11 women’s varsity teams at the Division I level. Arkansas has competed in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference since 1991 after a long, distinguished association with the Southwest Conference.