Arkansas fires AD Long; Bielema’s status shaky

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long was fired on Wednesday, with the school’s chancellor saying Long had “lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters, and members of the university leadership.”

Julie Cromer Peoples, the school’s associate vice chancellor for athletics and senior associate athletics director, was named Long’s replacement on an interim basis.

Arkansas said it will honor the provisions of Long’s contract, which runs through June 30, 2022.

“The decision to change leadership in our Athletics Department is not an easy one, and was made after great deliberation, discussion and thought, after consultation with the Board of Trustees and President [Donald] Bobbitt,” chancellor Joseph Steinmetz said in a statement.

“Since coming to Fayetteville in 2008, Jeff has led our department with character and integrity and helped move us forward in so many ways. However, over the past year, Jeff has lost the support of many of our fans, alumni, key supporters, and members of the university leadership, support that I believe is critical in our pursuit of excellence. I want to thank Jeff for his commitment and service to our University and to the State of Arkansas and, on behalf of the Razorback Family, I want to wish Jeff and his family all of the best in the future.”

The school’s dismissal of Long likely signals that football coach Bret Bielema is on his way out, too. Long hired Bielema from Wisconsin in December 2012, a move praised at the time because Bielema had won three consecutive Big Ten championships. But Bielema is just 29-32 as Razorbacks coach, and the team is 4-6 this season.

“I think the part that I’ve enjoyed during my time here is Jeff, from day one to where we are today, has been awesome,” Bielema said on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday.

“For our student-athletes, everything he stands for, everything he’s tried to give them off the field, on the field, all the services we provide, all the support that we’ve given,” Bielema added.

Long has served as Arkansas’ athletic director since 2008 and was the first chair of the College Football Playoff selection committee. He still serves on the committee. Long had previously been athletic director at Pitt and held the same post at Eastern Kentucky.

Bielema is under contract through the 2020 season and would be owed a buyout of about $15 million, sources said, if he’s fired without cause.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.

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