FAYETTEVILLE -- For the first time a woman is leading the Arkansas Razorbacks' athletic department.
Julie Cromer Peoples was appointed interim athletic director at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville by Chancellor Joe Steinmetz after Jeff Long's firing Wednesday.
Long's contract ran through June 30, 2022, and he could receive up to $4.625 million -- all of which is subject to mitigation depending on his future employment -- to be paid by the Razorback Foundation, Arkansas spokesman Mark Rushing said Thursday.
Long had been Arkansas' athletic director since January of 2008 and among his hires was Peoples, who has been a senior associate athletic director the last four years for administration and sports programs and senior woman administrator.
Peoples, 46, has been directing the administrator group responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Razorbacks' 19 sports and manages the senior staff according to her bio on Arkansas' website.
"Julie's an outstanding colleague," said Scott Varady, executive director and general counsel of the Razorback Foundation. "She's able to size up key issues and aspects of whatever you're talking about quickly.
"She's extremely bright. I enjoy working with her a lot."
For now, at least, Cromer Peoples is one of 11 women who are athletic directors at Football Bowl Subdivision universities and one of five at Power 5 conference programs along with Penn State's Sandy Barbour, Washington's Jennifer Cohen, Pittsburgh's Heather Lyke and North Carolina State's Debbie Yow.
Varady said he's gotten to know Cromer Peoples well from executive staff meetings which he was invited to represent the Razorback Foundation.
"She's got so many great qualities," Varady said. "She's thoughtful, she's deliberate, she's calm, she's insightful.
"She seeks out facts and she is very sensitive to the thoughts of others and to the needs of everyone. She's just a super person to work with and she's got a lot of great experience, and it shows."
Cromer Peoples, who hasn't been available for interviews since becoming interim athletic director, is the second woman to lead an SEC athletic department.
Joan Cronan, athletic director for Tennessee's women's sports from 1983-2012, served as interim athletic director for the Volunteers' men's sports as well in 2011 after Joe Hamilton stepped down and before Dave Hart was hired.
Cromer Peoples came to Arkansas from Indiana University, where she was the executive associate athletic director and senior women's administrator.
Arkansas cross country and track and field coaches Chris Bucknam (men) and Lance Harter (women) spoke highly of their experiences working with Cromer Peoples.
"Julie has done a phenomenal job with us," Bucknam said. "She'll be outstanding [as interim athletic director]. I wouldn't imagine we'll skip a beat.
"She'll have the same commitment to the student-athletes that Jeff Long had."
Harter is hopeful the committee Steinmetz has said will be formed to find a new athletic director to replace Long will consider Cromer Peoples for the job on a full-time basis.
"Julie is fantastic," Harter said. "She's a true advocate for the student-athletes and very much the ideal leader as far as helping coaches get the resources they need to win championships."
Harter said Cromer Peoples, who worked at the NCAA for 10 years before going to Indiana, is well-respected nationally.
"People hear that you work with Julie, and they're like, 'Oh, you're very fortunate,' " Harter said. "When we're at a national championship or conference championship event, and you can see she's very highly thought of by other people in college athletics."
Mike Anderson, Arkansas' men's basketball coach, said he met with Cromer Peoples on Wednesday.
"I have all the confidence in her continuing to move us forward," Anderson said. "That's what we talked about. Just steaming ahead full going forward in what we're doing right now."
Anderson said Cromer Peoples has been among several good hires made by Long.
"If you look at the people he's hired here, you look at the support staff, they've all been first-class since I've gotten here," said Anderson, in his seventh season at Arkansas. "Julie, I think her best interest is for this program."
Cromer Peoples was hired at Arkansas to replace Bev Lewis, the senior women's administrator and athletic director for the women's sports before the men's and women's sports were merged into one athletic department in 2008.
Ben Hyneman, chairman of the UA board of trustees, said he doesn't know Cromer Peoples, but is confident she'll do well in the role of interim athletic director.
"I know a little bit about her, but I really haven't had an opportunity to personally get acquainted with her," Hyneman said. "But I'm sure that Julie is very qualified. I trust Chancellor Steinmetz's judgment on that, and I'm sure that she'll do a great job."
Prior to her four-year stint at Indiana, Cromer Peoples worked for 10 years at the NCAA office in Indianapolis, where she was director of academic and membership affairs with job responsibilities that included coordinating the policy and legislative activities that created partnerships with facility members, coaches and administrators to advance academic reform.
Cromer Peoples, who has served on numerous NCAA, SEC and Big Ten committees, was an assistant athletics director at Wright State University in Fairborn, Ohio. She started her career at the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, working in championships, sport operations and compliance.
Cromer Peoples received a master's degree in public administration from Indiana and is an honors college graduate of Missouri State.
Varady, who was the UA's associate general counsel before going to the Razorback Foundation, said when Cromer Peoples was hired at Arkansas, he talked to some of his contacts who at the NCAA.
"My colleagues on the legal side at the NCAA all told me how incredible Julie is to work with and that we were fortunate to have her at Arkansas," Varady said. "That's proven to be true."
Interim athletic director Julie Cromer Peoples (left) is well thought of by several University of Arkansas, Fayetteville athletic department coaches and employees. “Julie has done a phenomenal job with us,” Razorbacks men’s cross country and track and field coach Chris Bucknam said. “She’ll be outstanding [as interim athletic director]. I wouldn’t imagine we’ll skip a beat.”
Sports on 11/17/2017
Print Headline: Arkansas staff confident of interim AD