Hiring of consultants for UA football, AD searches a reason for optimism

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Something must have happened Tuesday to make the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville know it needed help.

After Chancellor Joe Steinmetz said he would hire the next athletic director after consulting with his advisory committee, he decided to let the Razorback Foundation pay for the vetting of applicants.

The news release Tuesday gave the impression the university is close to hiring an athletic director and that Korn Ferry, one of the most expensive search firms in the country, would do the due diligence.

Steinmetz also announced that DHR International would assist interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples with the search for a new football coach. Cromer Peoples said Friday night she would be on the point in the search to find the next head coach, and apparently she has proceeded with the search.

She may have found out quickly how important it is to have a permanent athletic director.

In the news release she claimed she engaged DHR, apparently either Saturday or Sunday. Steinmetz did not say when he hired Korn Ferry but that the input from his advisory committee had been invaluable.

So it appears the UA is close to having a new athletic director, which will mean it can move forward on finding a coach. Any football coach who would have taken the head coaching job without knowing who his boss would be would have been a coach to run from.

All of this may be great. It could mean Steinmetz realized this needs to be done quickly and correctly. The Razorback Nation needed to see some progress. Healing needed to begin sooner rather than later.

So often in athletics — and it happens across the nation — the muscle in the decision making is the money people.

An Auburn booster once ordered the school’s president and athletic director — who did not want to go while he had a head coach (Tommy Tuberville) — to get on a plane and fly to Louisville to try and hire Bobby Petrino. The news leaked, and the president was fired and the athletic director reassigned.

Big money has talked loudly at Ole Miss, Florida and Kentucky. Pick any SEC school and most likely it has happened, except for Alabama over the past 10 years with Nick Saban running the school.

Maybe some boosters aired their concerns about the future convincingly.

If UA athletics ever had the need to control its narrative, it’s been since Jeff Long was terminated as athletic director. But being without a full-time athletic director while searching for a head coach — especially at a time when there are so many vacancies in the SEC and around the country — it didn’t appear the UA was in control.

While fans speculated about the next coach, the most important immediate move was to find an athletic director.

Apparently the board of trustees told Steinmetz to fire Long on Nov. 9, but he wasn’t terminated until Nov. 15. Obviously nothing was done during those six days. Seven more days passed before Steinmetz announced his advisory committee, and regardless of what has been said, the decision about Bielema already had been made.

Now, 20 days after being told to fire Long, Steinmetz announced he’s handing off the heavy work to an outside consultant firm and that the Razorback Foundation will pay for that and a search committee for a new coach.

Hiring Korn Ferry and DHR should alleviate some concern for the Razorback Nation. Those companies value experience specific to the needs of their clients. Finally, help is on the way.

Sports on 11/29/2017

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