“Good Evening. Thank you….Thank you for joining us on this Sunday evening. I appreciate ya’ll coming out to talk about Razorback Basketball. As we announce earlier today, I have decided to make a change in the leadership of our men’s basketball program. The decision to dismiss any coach is never an easy one.
I appreciate the hard work and dedication of John Pelphrey and his staff. However, after a thorough evaluation of all aspects of our program, I am confident this decision needed to be made in the best interests of Razorback basketball.
As I have stated previously, I wanted to conduct an evaluation of the program at the end of the season. Even as the regular season concluded, I wanted to remove the emotion and disappointment from the last few games and evaluate the entire body of work including the first round of the SEC Tournament. Contrary to some premature and speculative reports, my decision to dismiss Coach Pelphrey was made earlier today upon the completion of that evaluation. I met with Coach Pelphrey and informed him of my decision early this afternoon.
When I conducted my evaluation of our program and its performance over the past four years, there were many factors that lead to today’s decision. Taking all those factors into account, I believe that a change in leadership was needed to lead our program to the level of success that we believe is obtainable at the University of Arkansas. Now we will move forward for the search of a new leader.
Our search will begin immediately, and I’m confident will produce outstanding candidates. I fully realize that there will be great interest in this search, and there will be speculation regarding potential candidates. As athletic director, it is my responsibility to conduct this search as privately as possible in order to attract the best candidates possible.
In closing, I want to thank Chancellor Gerhart, President Sugg, and the members of our Board of Trustees for their continued support of intercollegiate athletics at the University of Arkansas. With that, I’m happy to take questions.” – Jeff Long, Athletic Director, University of Arkansas, March 13, 2011.
The following summarizes about the first ten minutes of Jeff Long’s question and answer session following his opening remarks. More will be added later. As Athletic Director Long addressed different questions, additional information was sometimes stated about a topic which he spoke earlier. For that reason the information is grouped together although you will not necessarily find it that way listening to the Video of his press conference on ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
What went into the decision to fire Coach John Pelphrey?
Revenues did play a factor, but it was not the overriding factor. The experience of the student athlete was the major factor, and it was not up to the standards which AD Long considered were sufficient.
Long’s decision in light of his support of John Pelphrey —
Long says that he thought 4 years was sufficient in light of the situation that Pelphrey took over and the commitment made to him.Long had high hopes that Pelphrey would be successful. He believes that John Pelphrey can lead the right situation, but it was not happening at Arkansas. Long says he had to decide whether John Pelphrey could ultimately lead Arkansas to the level that it deserves to be at and came to the conclusion that he did not believe Pelphrey could do so.
On allegations of recruiting violations–
“That violation, that photograph that appeared had no factor. If it turns out to be a violation and we believe it is it is a a minor secondary violation and would not rise to the level of dismissal of a coach.”
Student athletes were not having the experience which he thought they were capable of having.
How did John Pelphrey take his dismissal and what are the financial terms of his separation from Arkansas?
John Pelphrey is a professional and is respected for how he has handled things. Pelphrey loves Arkansas and the Razorbacks and has embraced the culture. John Pelphrey has 3 years remaining on his contract at $600,000 per year. He will be paid that amount, but if he obtains other employment it will “mitigate” or reduce the amount Arkansas owes him.
What about Staff?
At the point of the press conference, Long had met with assistant Rob Evans, who would have lead Arkansas if UA had received an N.I.T. bid.
How was Pelphrey’s firing communicated to the basketball players currently on the roster?
Met with student athletes who could be there on short notice. They supported Rob Evans as interim coach. John Pelphrey had the opportunity to address his players first and then Long spoke to them.
Have you contacted the players who have signed national letters of intent?
Prospective signees have not been contacted. Process with signees will be for the new coach to meet with them. In the interim the Athletic Department will let them know they are wanted and the Department is available to them.
How will search for a new coach be conducted?
A committee will not be used. Only Long and his staff will conduct the search. Long has no plans at this moment to use a search firm and doesn’t feel like he needs to use one. If he feels the need to do so, he will. Jeff Long will conduct the search.
What will Jeff Long be looking for in a coach?
The criteria will be leadership with a focus on the student athletes and the people in our program, have high standards, goals, and accountability in our program. Style of play is some consideration but more, it’s winning. If you are a winner and have a winning style of play, fans will adapt to that. Mainly it will be leadership to bring Razorback basketball to the level it once was.
In terms of new hire’s salary — As far as the financial commitment to basketball, Long would not hazard a guess on salary. Arkansas will have to pay whatever the market bears based upon the coach’s experience, winning ability, and prior salary. “We think we have the resources necessary to attract a high quality coach.”
More on Salary — “Money is an object” and Long has to decide what Arkansas can afford to spend. Circumstances are different financially than a few years ago…Salaries and day-to-day operations are separate [from capital expenditures]. “We have prepared ourselves and I think we are in good financial shape with what we can have available to attract a new head coach.”
On the timing of the decision in relation to having Arkansas’ name out there for a new head coach — It’s important but Long’s decision was based upon his evaluation.
Does Jeff Long have a short list of candidates now?
Yes. The list may expand depending upon who comes forward.
On the attractiveness of the Head Coaching job at the University of Arkansas —
Long believes that the work that Coach Pelphrey and his staff and Jeff Long and his staff have done over the last 3 years makes the Arkansas job more attractive than when Coach Pelphrey took over. They have done good things here, and he expects that a high-quality candidate will be interested in the University of Arkansas.
When will the new hire be expected?
“We hope to attract high quality candidates and many of those candidates may be involved in the NCAA tournament and certainly we wouldn’t talk to those folks until after they’ve completed their NCAA play, so the typical timeline around this time of year is somewhere around the Final Four either before the Final Four or after the Final Four if a candidate became identified and we could move quicker, we certainly would, but that’s the time table particularly with basketball this time of year.”
Will financial commitment to new basketball coach impact football, in particular the new football operations center?
No, they are separate. The Football Operations Center is paid for with “fund-raised dollars.”