Though going the interim route and promoting an existing assistant coach seems to be, at this juncture, the best thing to do, it is far from ideal. One potentially huge problem is if the assistant chosen to be a one season "caretaker" of the program leads a loaded Razorback team to a one, even two loss, season. It will be very difficult to then turn around and fire a coaching staff that's proven itself worthy in the face of a most challenging transition - especially if the fans rally behind these guys. Man, Bobby Petrino really put Jeff Long in a miserable situation.
It was only a matter of time before Jessica Dorrell and the University of Arkansas parted ways. The only questions were: How much would she be paid to disappear and how ugly would the episode become?
Turns out, not too much and not too ugly.
Dorrell — the young UA staffer who Bobby Petrino has admitted to having an “inappropriate relationship” with and who was on the receiving end of a $20,000 gift from the coach as well as a $50,000-a-year job — has resigned as the football program’s student-athlete development coordinator. The University of Arkansas will pay her “approximately $14,000″ as part of a “settlement and resolution of all matters between the parties.”
In other words, the buy-off was cheap in terms of avoiding some form of potential sexual harassment suit. Kudos to AD Jeff Long and the UA legal team and quite possibly to Dorrell herself for ending things quickly and somewhat amicably. There certainly could have been a lot more mud slung in all directions and thankfully the school won’t be forced to endure that.
Long’s press release said:
“While Ms. Dorrell had a legitimate right to apply for and accept a position within the football program, the circumstances surrounding the former coach’s decision to hire here compromised her ability to be effective in such a position. She and I believe she should have the opportunity to move on.”
Most importantly, the 14-page document Dorrell signed includes an “irrevocable release and covenant not to sue.” When asked about her exit, “Ms. Dorrell covenants and agrees to state that any and all disputes were resolved amicably or words of similar effect.”
Meanwhile, some big money Arkansas supporters have shown their approval of the administration’s handling of this mess by turning over donations equaling $1.25 million in honor of “the courageous leadership demonstrated by Jeff Long in the course of recent events” saying his actions have “further affirmed our confidence in his leadership and his vision” for UA’s athletic future.
Meanwhile, the search for a new head coach — or a new interim coach — continues. Yesterday that search took an interesting turn as a former Phillip Fulmer assistant told Nashville radio station WGFX-FM that the coach and UA have spoken in some fashion. According to Doug Matthews:
“I know Phillip has had conversations with them. And when I say with them, all that is going to take place behind the scenes.
But everything I’m hearing from Arkansas is the spring game, I think, is this Saturday. ‘Let’s get through spring. Let’s see where we are.’ But I think they’ll either go with a guy that they’ve got on the staff or they’ll bring in someone to be — caretaker’s the wrong word — but bring someone in who has been through it all before.
If there is a place for Phillip, that will be the place.”
Matthews made no mention — apparently — of who exactly Fulmer had spoken to and who it was that had done the initial contacting. The former Tennessee head coach last led a team onto the field in 2008.
Those of you who’ve read this site know that we are firmly of the opinion that Arkansas and Long should rely on an interim coach for the 2012 season and use the next eight months to identify, target and land a perfect long-term solution for the Razorback program. From Jack Crowe’s resignation after one game in 1992 — a loss to The Citadel — to now, UA has had more ups and downs than an elevator.
And more and more people seem to be arriving at the same conclusion — there will be more and better candidates willing to jump to Fayetteville in November than there will be now.
That said, it will be interesting to see where Long turns if he indeed decides to go the interim route. Fulmer makes as much sense as anyone. He knows the Southeastern Conference and current Hog defensive ends coach Steve Caldwell was a long-time Fulmerite at Tennessee. So the interim coach would have some insight into the personalities on the team and on the staff.
But it might be better for Long to simply promote from within to maintain some semblance of stability. Bringing in an outsider — whether that be anyone from Fulmer to Ron Zook to Sean Payton to Lou Holtz to Frank Broyles himself — could create unnecessary turf wars and friction within the staff, within the team. (And no, we’re not serious about Payton, Holtz or Broyles.)
It might be wiser to promote an existing staff member to interim coach for 2012 — as Ohio State did last year with Luke Fickell — and hand some of that coach’s duties off to a grad assistant who is already working with and familiar with the current roster.
And for those who’ll point to Fickell’s 6-7 record in 2011, remember, the Buckeyes lost a number of players in their dust-up with the NCAA, including their star quarterback. That won’t be the case at Arkansas. Whoever takes over in Fayetteville — be it Paul Petrino, Paul Haynes, Taver Johnson, Tim Horton, Fulmer, or the reanimated body of Knute Rockne — will be taking over a roster primed to win double-digit games in 2012.
We believe promotion from within is the simplest, quickest solution. But the school could do worse than Fulmer if it’s looking for an outsider.