The Athletic Director of the Year will be announced and recognized at the 2015 Sports Business Awards at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square in New York City on Wednesday, May 20. The other finalists for Athletic Director of the Year include Mitch Barnhart (Kentucky), Ian McCaw (Baylor) and Dan Radakovich (Clemson).
“This is a great honor for Jeff to be recognized among the nation's best athletic directors,” University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart said. “I know that he is the best athletic director in the country and has continually demonstrated his commitment not only to athletic success, but academic success in equal measure. We are lucky to have him at the University of Arkansas.”
In his eighth 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 nationally respected programs in the country. Along the way, Long has gained national attention and earned numerous awards for his progressive leadership of a program encompassing 19 sports and more than 460 student-athletes.
In Long’s tenure, Arkansas has captured two national championships, 24 conference championships and advanced to 106 post-season competitions, including the school’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance in football. In the Learfield Sports Directors Cup, a year-long competition ranking the nation’s most successful intercollegiate athletic programs, Arkansas has finished in the top 30 programs nationally six times in the past seven years.
Within the current year, Arkansas has earned its second national title of Long’s tenure at the 2015 NCAA Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships. Also, for the first time since 2001, Arkansas has played in a football bowl game while earning bids to both the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments. The men’s basketball team returned to NCAA play for the first time since 2008 while the women’s team did so for the first time since 2012. The Razorbacks defeated Texas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl and won their initial games in both the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments.
In the classroom, the Razorbacks continue to set new standards including posting a school record student-athlete grade point average of 3.22 in the fall of 2014. In 2013-14, Razorback student-athletes achieved a GPA of 3.18. It marked the sixth consecutive year Razorback student-athletes posted a GPA exceeding 3.0. In 2014, for the second consecutive year, Arkansas exceeded the national APR multi-year rate in all 19 sports and had three teams earn NCAA Public Recognition awards. Graduation success rates continue to rise with a total of 112 current or former Razorback student-athletes graduating in 2013-14.
Student-athlete development has also been a priority including the establishment of the Razorback Leadership Academy, the first of its kind in the Southeastern Conference. In the community, Razorback student-athletes are more active than ever volunteering more than 6,500 hours of time for more various agencies, organizations and schools around the state.
Under Long’s leadership, the program has fortified its financial standing ensuring more support for the development of student-athletes. According to USA Today, Arkansas is one of only 23 financially self-sustaining Division I-A athletic programs in the nation.
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 Southeastern Conference and nationally over the next 30 years.
Last August, the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Training Center was completed. Later this summer, the Basketball Performance Center and the Jerry and Gene Jones Student-Athlete Success Center will be completed on the University of Arkansas campus.
Long’s appointment as the first ever chairman of the College Football Playoff (CFP) Selection committee provided further evidence that he is already one of the most respected and influential leaders within intercollegiate athletics. Long chaired a committee of 13 individuals that collectively featured more than 230 years of college football experience two former top-level university administrators, five current athletics directors, three members of the College Football Hall of Fame, three former college football head coaches, a former United States Secretary of State, a former member of Congress, and a retired three-star general.
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 has 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 SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily Athletic Director of the Year.